Third World Problems

Angeline Minnocci2 Comments

America - land of plenty. 

We have it so easy. We have endless resources. When something breaks, we throw it away and go buy a new one. We have a pill for every little sickness so we never have to feel discomfort. And when difficulties come, sometimes we don't confront them. We just pour ourselves a drink and brush it under the rug. We have machines that wash clothes and dishes. We flip a switch and have power, and we turn on the faucet and water comes out. Hot water. And soap! Oh glorious soap! We never have to think about where our next meal will come from, and we eat with so much variety. Every culture right at our fingertips. We drive just to go a mile down the road. And when we are bored, we have every activity under the sun to preoccupy us. We have the opportunity to hop on a train or bus or plane and experience places other than our own hometowns. And we get annoyed at the simplest things. I think I use the phrase "that's so annoying" 100 times a day. When our phones die or someone takes our parking spot or so-and-so did such-and-such. And I never think twice about any of these things. We really do live a life of luxury, no matter how big our paycheck is. 

It's so opposite here. 

The children at the orphanage here all share stories of abandonment, by their own mothers and fathers. Stories of heartbreak and despair. They have been beaten and abused, and have experienced death and loss firsthand. Most of them were left on the street to die, unwanted by their own families. But by God's great grace, Pastor Maula took them in and fed them and gave them a bed to sleep in and put clothes on their backs. And their hearts have been transformed and are now filled with joy unending. They are the strongest individuals I know. And they are all under the age of 18. 

Every time I come here the same things blow my mind. That these people can live so simply, yet be so rich. They don't have hot water or washing machines or unlimited data. Most of them don't have electricity or something other than dirt for a floor. But they are rich in joy. Rich in relationships. Rich in spirit. And when their physical resources run out, they rely on each other.

Our everyday problems are so small. 

I don't think having plenty is a terrible thing. When we have plenty, we have plenty to give. But it does make it so incredibly hard to be thankful for what we have. Funny how that works. 

I think it makes it easier to love someone deeply when you understand them. And to fully understand them, you have to live like they do. Walk a mile in their shoes and see the world from their perspective. 

That's the kind of love that Jesus showed. He stooped down to our level and ate what we ate and worked like we worked and wept like we wept. And that's how I want to do it too. Strip everything away that I've grown so accustomed to rely on and just walk a mile or two here in some Haitian shoes. Then maybe love can come and just wash over everything like a flood.

 Gonaives in all of its glory. 

Gonaives in all of its glory. 

Prezidan Vladimir

Angeline MinnocciComment

Bonsoir, friends!

Angeline here. I'll be comin' to ya live from Gonaives, Haiti for the next three weeks as Shop Elda undergoes our THIRD EVER sewing workshop. I can't wait to share with you stories of Haiti and all of its glorious, comfort-zone-destroying, joyful splendor. 

So first off, this is Vladimir. 

One of the oldest boys here at the orphanage, he clearly stands out as the leader of the pack. Without a doubt, you my friends are looking at the next president of Haiti!

This evening, like every other evening, I sat on the tile floor of the hallway with Vladimir and a few of the other boys. They speak such good English now - infinitely more than when I first met them 4 years ago. Whereas Lindsey and I can only speak the simplest of words in Creole. So we exchanged funny English words and funny Creole words, sang silly songs, and gave each other history lessons about our countries' origins, ideals in which we were founded on, and listed our founding fathers. You know, basics. 

Vladimir asked me what Americans thought of our new president Trump, and I explained to him the best I could the division in our country over our new president and all of the very differing opinions happening currently. 

Haiti has just undergone a presidential election as well. I asked him what he thought of his new president, and he sighed. 

"He is a business man, but not a politician." He went on to explain how presidents in Haiti are only in it for themselves - to make money for themselves and their families and nothing more. "He doesn't think about the people of Haiti and their needs. That's why Haiti is in the state that it is in."

"They don't think about tomorrow," he said about most Haitian poloticians, "only today." And in his broken English accent, "it is no good for the future if we only think about today."

"I think the education system is the most broken part of Haiti," he said. The government is supposed to fund public schools, but the new president does not pay the teachers of public schools. Any teachers that are left in public schools are simply volunteers. This lead to a recent revolt by the students - out of their frustration and in protest, they lit classroom benches on fire. 

"That would be the first thing I would do, if God allows me to become president, is fix the education system." 

Vladimir knows the value of an education. He asks questions, good ones. He has such a thirst to know more about the world around him. Those are the best kind of people to be around in my opinion. I think those are the people who really do change the world, and all that stuff. 

Until next time, orvwa!



From Em.

Angeline MinnocciComment

Summer nights in Gonaives are some of the best. The sun has gone down and taken the heat away with it. Neighbors gather on their balconies and doorsteps to visit long into the night. When I spent my summer in Haiti in 2013, I often passed my evenings doing just this: sitting outside in the cool night air talking with Elda and whatever neighbor women happened to be over at the time. They would braid each other’s hair and chatter on and I would mostly listen.

One summer’s night, Elda and I got to talking about her dream of starting a sewing workshop to teach young women how to sew. We had been talking about how most of the mothers in our feeding program don’t seem to have a good way to make money for themselves and support their children whose fathers have long since made themselves scarce. And she told me about how she had once poured herself into running a small sewing workshop on the outskirts of town. It was well-attended and got off to a good start, but as with so many well-begun projects in Haiti, the funding eventually dried up and she had no choice but to let it die.

“If only I could start something like that for the women here,” she said. “It would make such a difference for them.”

Several weeks later, I once again found myself enjoying relaxed conversation in the cool darkness, this time with a recent graduate from San Diego’s fashion institute who had come to spend a week helping us build a fence around our garden. When I asked her about her hopes for the future, Angeline told me about her dream of somehow using her degree for something more than simply pandering to the world’s vanities.

It all clicked. Elda dreamed of starting a sewing workshop. Angeline dreamed of designing clothes for a cause. The mothers of the kids in our program needed a source of income. There was a growing market for ethically-sourced clothing in the US. And so the idea for a workshop in our little community was birthed.

Now, a year and a half later, I am proud to present Elda, our brand-new clothing brand. Born of a dream deferred for decades, made by hands eager to learn, each product we have for sale is a victory. It’s nearly a month’s wages for the woman who made it. It’s 30 meals for children in our feeding program. It’s hours spent designing patterns and trying to teach ourselves accounting. It’s long, hot mornings spent wrestling with temperamental machines and flaky electricity.

Not a single part of this was easy but we’re proud of where we are. We’re proud of Elda, our company’s namesake, who held onto her dream and has been faithful to see it through. We’re proud of the women who worked tirelessly to learn their craft and perfect it. And we’re proud of the skirts we have to show for it all.

We only have as many skirts as the women have been able to make so far—less than 100 in all—so order yours now and join us in coming alongside Elda and the women she mentors as we work towards our mission of empowering Haitians with skills to grow their communities spiritually, physically and intellectually.

From Emily, founder and director of The Rosemila Project