Stitching Haiti Back TogetherJanuary 12, 2011 - 6:00 PM | by: Kathleen Foster
Before he can teach them a skill, he has to teach them how to work.
Patrice Gaetan is Program Manager at the Haitian Apparel Center, where hundreds of unemployed Haitians are learning how to sew. It’s a 5 week course. The first week is dedicated to instilling a good work ethic.
“Some of them have never had a job before. We have to teach them what it means to show up for work, what it means to be on time. We have to teach them how to cash a check.”
The 30,000 square foot training center is funded by USAID and run by CHF International-Haiti. Trainees are not paid. Despite that, at least 50 job seekers line up outside the facility every day in hopes of putting in an application. The current class of trainees includes 10 who live in tent cities.
Once the course is complete, they can expect to earn about 3 dollars a day working at a textile factory, if they are hired at all. However, there will soon be more businesses looking to hire them.
The US Government, the Haitian Government and the Inter-American Development Bank recently closed a deal to build a new industrial park in northern Haiti creating 20,000 new, permanent jobs. It’s expected to open next year. Former President Bill Clinton visited the Haitian Apparel training center to announce the plan. He acknowledged that rebuilding Haiti after last year’s devastating earthquake is taking longer than expected, but things are starting to look up.
“We were a little slow getting up on the reconstruction. But, in the last four months the rate of investment has doubled.”
The Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund, the organization started by former presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, was created to support job development by providing loans to small and medium sized businesses.
“We’ve got some great applications and we are going to help a lot of businesses grow and that’s very important for the long term welfare of Haiti,” said President Clinton.
Meantime, at the Haitian Apparel Center, Patrice Gaetan’s trainees are doing what they can to stitch things in Haiti back together… piece by piece.