In J4 Leaders this year, we are discussing promises we can cling to, as Christian women leading in the marketplace. On Tuesday, Julie Colombino, CEO of Rebuild Globally discussed her personal journey of God leading her to Haiti to fulfill an important mission . . .
August 14, 2010, is a day I will never forget. Only 7 months after the unforgiving earthquake that claimed countless lives and left millions homeless and jobless. This is the day, however, we opened the REBUILD globally training center and workshop. This is the day that marks the beginning of the bravery of our Haitian craftsmen and women, Board of Directors, international and local volunteers and many friends and family. This is the day the people of REBUILD globally took the plunge to turn found objects into fashion and the impoverished into entrepreneurs.
“Integrity” is the word that rang in my head every moment after the earthquake. How can REBUILD globally make a significant and long term positive change in Haiti after all it had suffered? I decided to listen to those who were most affected and to act with integrity no matter how scared or complicated the situation became. People asked for jobs….simple as that. We worked hand in hand in order to create a system that would provide dignified living-wages and livelihood opportunities. On that day, August 14, 2010, that was all we could conceive: four people, four lives.
Employment and empowerment have effects that extend into generations. Our craftsmen and women are financially secure, which empowers them to send their children to school from their hard earned paychecks. Each one of our staff members is even able to support orphans or others who are vulnerable in their own community because of their own fiscal health. Some have contributed to local micro-finance projects. Some have become leaders of their community groups. Some have taken in children to help support other family members. It is through this kind of chain reaction that these towns, cities, and eventually the world can be rid of poverty once and for all.
By providing dignified living wages, our craftsmen and women not only become leaders in their community; but they are turning waste tires into beautiful, high-fashion sandals. Employment and local ownership are the game changers in developing countries. When charity dries up, those in poverty need a means to sustain themselves and support their families. Employment means parents can educate and feed their children; it means they can live in safe dwellings and not tent cities.
We have transformed the traditional methods of charitable aid with a business model that provides a dignified solution to economic injustice while producing a desired product. After years of working on the ground, we have found the most impactful way to respond to a disaster and lessen the effects of poverty is to combine the efforts of our non-profit with the for-profit sector. In 2015, we incubated a locally owned for-profit social business, deux mains designs, Haiti’s first social impact factory that handcrafts high-fashion sandals and accessories from genuine leather and upcycled materials. REBUILD globally and deux mains work hand in hand to change the system that keeps poor people impoverished. deux mains designs is our paradigm social impact business that empowers and employs Haitian citizens to handcraft unique products from up cycled materials.
Nearly six years later, I am honored to say we have over 25 full time craftsmen and women, 3 of whom are managers and who also have ownership in the local business we have created, deux mains designs. We also employ 6 part-time tutors and teachers who work with our 30 vulnerable students in the Elèv Program.
REBUILD globally was born is a disaster, but it has thrived in its wake as a result of the compassion each individual donor and customer has shown throughout the years. Thank you for being a thoughtful buyer, conscious giver and educated global citizen. It is people like you who inspire others to be the best they can be when situations seem dire and hopeless.
To learn more about Rebuild Globally and to shop from their on-line store, please click here.
Thank you for choosing to walk a mile in our sandals.