I grew up in snowy Minnesota, and as a fearless young adult, moved to sunny San Diego. During my corporate years in southern California, I quickly grew tireless and was seeking purpose and adventure. Through a series of events, including the death of my only sibling, I began to attend a local church. My new friendships, and re-defined purpose, fueled the beginning of my travel with short-term, international, mission trips. Much of what I did on those mission trips were not in the realm of long-term sustainability, but I was innocent enough not to know. In 2011, I came to Haiti for the first time. I spent two weeks exploring the country and learning about the orphan crisis. It was news to me that more than 80% of the children living in orphanages actually have parents that are alive! It is simply due to financial burden that they are relinquished to orphanages. This was a game changer. I had been working in “orphan care” for years. Visiting orphanages, handing out Christmas presents, staying for a day or two and then never seeing those kids again. I was almost embarrassed that I had taken part in these activities not knowing that it was their parents that should and could have been doing it all along.
After my weeks in Haiti, I returned to California determined to do something. With my new knowledge about the orphan crisis, I had an unrelenting sense of responsibility to make a change. I placed all my things in an alley with a “Free” sign on it, quit my corporate job, and moved to Haiti full-time in 2012. The day I moved to Haiti, I met Shelley the founder of Papillon. Just a few months later and I began working with Papillon, and have been here ever since. The company has grown more than 600% during my time here. There has been challenges, and valleys but there has also been miracles. No day is the same. Each moment is filled with possibilities and potential. The fight for justice is not an easy one, but we were never called to live a life of monotony. We are called to turn the world upside down.
What do you want the world to know about Haiti?
You better come visit before the world realizes this place is paradise. This place is rich in culture, and there is a rawness to life unlike anything I have experienced before. There is history, there is music, there is fun, and there is some pretty good food. If you are looking for adventure this is your place. It is the undiscovered jewel of the caribbean. There are so many things to see and do, and the beaches are covered in white sand, and surrounded by crystal blue waters.
You have an exceptional cause. You empower people and give them jobs and dignity and programs that keep their families strong. How can people support you and become involved? (from purchasing to investing, to joining etc)
Papillon takes a holistic approach to economic empowerment. An easy and fun way to directly support our efforts of job creation is to buy something beautiful! Simply purchasing a bracelet or gift from www.papillonmarketplace.com keeps moms and dads working in Haiti. We also offer a variety of social programs for the artisans and community. This includes everything from medical and housing funds, to literacy classes and education projects. To support theses essential pieces of empowerment you can donate at www.papillonempowerment.org We also offer wholesale and private label options. Make some cash, while supporting a great cause. Takes just a second to set up an wholesale account at www.papillon-enterprise.com
Best thing about your work?
One of my favorite elements of my work is the impact it has. There is something incredible that happens to people when they have the dignity of a job. It goes beyond a handout, and it long-lasting and empowering. People are able to care for their families, build a skill, and have the security of employment. A job is something that changes peoples lives, forever.
Worst thing about your work?
One of the biggest challenges is the never ending need that we see. Some days there are women lined up outside the workshop, waiting in the sun, holding their babies, for over 8 hours, just hoping for the possibility of obtaining work. The challenge can feel overwhelming, and it is easy to believe the lie that I am not doing enough.
Favourite city in the world?
Every new place I visit:)
Teetotaler or something stronger?
Most recent indulgence?
An entire box of Trader Joe’s chocolate covered peppermint Jo-Jo’s.
Walk, bike or drive?
Run for cardio, bike for fun, and drive with too much road rage.
Who is the one person in the world you would like to sit beside on a long flight and what would you ask her or him?
My husband. He’s the best travel partner and because it is a long flight he would let me cuddle and drool on him.
What would you tell women who are considering becoming social entrepreneurs or working in development?
There are no problems, only opportunities. The world truly is at your fingertips. As women of education, drive and strength, it is part of our responsibility to advocate for those who do not have access to these same opportunities. We are not given these gifts to keep them to ourselves, but to share. Giving a voice to the voiceless is a real things. If we do not do it, who will?
It is a bit cliche but my favorite quote is by Ghandi “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I remember reading this quote as a teenager and it was as if my social activist switch was turned on. I would get to angry and frustrated reading stories about injustice, learning about human trafficking, and studying emotionally disturbing history lessons. This quote brought a sense of responsibility to my. Was I going to sit around and be angry, or was I going to go against the majority and fight for the oppressed?
Last book you read?
Shelley in Haiti by Shelley Jean
Favourite cause, group or activist?
Anything real, with a little grit, and fighting in the trenches with the fellow soldiers. No b.s. The problem with the bs is that people get so flooded with images, Gofundme’s, and fake hashtag social causes, that it takes away from those actually doing something. It is important that organizations and individuals maintain integrity and keep focus on those who we are actually trying to empower.
****Links to your
Web site www.papillon-enterprise.com
Favourite cause www.papillonempowerment.org