My team’s purpose in Haiti was to travel to textile factories with Share Hope and educate the pregnant factory workers on how to protect themselves from the Zika virus. We were going to be presenting to over 300 women in the course of 6 days and we weren’t quite sure how to dress for the occasion.
In my mind, I didn’t want to be overdressed and thus communicate a social class difference. But I what I didn’t realize is that although 80% of the population lives below the poverty line, the Haitian people take a lot of pride in their appearance!
In fact, when our team arrived at the factory office we all felt under-dressed! The Her Health educators were dressed professionally and looked beautiful!
Needless to say, I was completely surprised by how well dressed the people were and at the amount of clothing on the streets of Haiti. As we drove around Port au Prince I was thinking “Where on earth did all these clothes come from?”
That’s when I learned about Pepe or the journey of second hand clothing from the United States. So as I understand it, when thrift stores like the Goodwill and Salvation Army get rid of clothes they sell them to companies who buy them in bulk. These companies then sort the clothing and put them in huge pallets to sell to developing countries around the world.
In many cases, Haitian Americans living in the States, buy the clothing in bulk and then ship it to Haiti so that the local people can buy and sell them in the markets.
It seemed like every main street was filled with people selling these items. I saw a lot of cute designer clothes and shoes and trust me, the next time I travel to Haiti, I will be dressed cute!
From June 20-25th, I traveled to Haiti with five other women to partner with Share Hope’s Her Health Education program. There was so much that I witnessed and so I’ve decided to write a series of post as a way for me to share what I encountered during my brief time Port au Prince.
Now before we arrived in Haiti, several team members expressed concern about us driving ourselves. You see, just because we all could handle driving in Manhattan's rush hour traffic, did not qualify us for driving in Port au Prince. I’m so glad we hired a driver because driving was definitely a cross-cultural experience!
First, many streets had huge pot holes, traffic lights seemed almost non-existent, and lane divisions were not clearly outlined. In some parts of the city, traffic was so crazy that at any point, another vehicle could be going in the opposite direction but headed directly towards you in your lane. And although it appeared chaotic, the people knew how to navigate the streets and get from point A to point B without killing each other or road rage! New Yorkers could learn a lot from the Haitian drivers!
What I found interesting was that although the streets were crowded with vehicles, according to the World Factbook of Haiti, only 5 out of 1000 people own vehicles. Most Haitians travel by motorcycle or tap taps which are colorful buses and trucks which serve as public transportation. For a ride, the people pay about 25 cents and travel throughout the city.
I have lot's to share about my time in Haiti, so make sure to check out the other post in this series!
I've been married to my best friend Bryan Murray since the year 2000. Now we have four incredible children and a super full life with extended family and friends.