So I know that I've talked to some of you about the Bracelets of Blessing program, but I figured I'd take the time to explain everything here as a reference point.
In August of last year, when I returned to Haiti after my family's summer vacation, a few of the boys living in the tent city on Freres campus began making me bracelets. They were small, macrame bracelets, but they were pretty cool looking. I noted that they could probably sell them to some of the American teams coming through the Guest House and make a little bit of money.
That next week about 5 boys gave us a few bracelets to sell. From there, more and more kids joined in and the bracelets became more and more ornate. The small business had become quite successful!
Now the program has grown to 23 kids. For some, the money they receive from the bracelet program is the only income their family receives. Pay day is every Saturday at noon, and each kid lines up with their parents to receive their income for the week and dump off their new bracelets to sell.
I cannot fully explain how life-changing and life-sustaining this program has been for these families. I will say, however, that God has truly been at work and that blessings have been abundant. So abundant, in fact, that I feel like, unfortunately, the program has hit a plateau and cannot grow any further without more structure put into place.
With this in mind, I have created (with help and input from others) a vision Bracelets of Blessing that I really hope to accomplish. Here's the basics of the plan.
1. Create an after school program for the kids to visit
2. Only accept bracelets made during program time and in the program space - to ensure that parents do not begin forcing their children to make bracelets and stay home from school. (For some families the bracelet business has become so lucrative that this truly is a concern... I want to make sure all kids go to school!)
3. Offer other life-enriching opportunities during the program time - free English lessons, tutoring, organized sports, choirs, etc.
4. Have staff in place to allow for the expansion of the bracelet market. (AKA: Begin selling bracelets in the States, not just at the Methodist Guest House in Haiti.)
5. Have more quality control, while still allowing for creativity and for the kids to create at their own pace and by their own will.
6. Offer more opportunities for community among the bracelet kids and their families.
7. Offer educational seminars for parents on things like hygiene/health issues, family budgeting, etc.
8. Allow for more children and families to get involved in the program.
Before I left Haiti, we briefly explained to the kids and their families what this new vision was and the response was EXTREMELY positive. The families really want this and I think there is definitely a need for the program.
As of right now, I am still in the process of trying to get the program established as an actual entity so that people can donate to it, we can hire employees to run it, and there can be better financial oversight. However, I am meeting a lot of road blocks here in the US. When I visit Haiti soon, I am hoping to meet with a lawyer to see what possibilities there might be to establish the organization in Haiti instead of the States. I will also (hopefully) look at a possible location to hold the after school program and I might be meeting with some possible program directors... depending on how well the meeting with the lawyer goes.
Everything is still in the early stages. I really hoped it would be further along at this point, but like I said, I've met a lot of road blocks here in the States. I am hopeful that I can move forward with plans soon, though. In the meantime, prayers are certainly appreciated and needed!! :)
Oh, and if you want to see these beautiful bracelets, and some of the kids that make them, go here.