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Hundreds of thousands of imported goods are crammed in to the Haitian market every single day.. They dock at the warf right across from what appears to be one of the busiest public markets of the country- Croixbossale.  Fruits and vegetables spill on to the streets as you glance into the market. On the left end stands a slaughter house – where goats and cows are slaughtered right on the spot for an audience.The pungent odor seeps into everything around you.  It seems the rotten fruit, fresh fruit and fecal matter of freshly butchered animals have an aroma best described as repulsive. To the far right sit truckload of used clothing literally mounds upon mounds- piled on top of each other appearing to have spilled un to the ground without a care

But the story does not end there. It continues, the work continues. While Haiti’s is in-undated with imported good which span from China to Alaska productivity lies within these walls. Haitian Entrepreneurs manufacturing   local goods while scarce in comparison to the developing market are definitely on the rise.

Just down the street from a busy shore of imports sits an encouraging atelier. An atelier created by five recent graduate of HPCD incubator program. A program which works with women/ men  for 12-24 months , which equips them with business skills , provides a space of production for their small businesses,  and funding to recapitalize their businesses.  

Right before you make it Martissant at Fontamara 41. The small shop is entitled “Atleye fanm an development pou lavni” Which translates a women’s atelier in development for the future.  On the third floor of a complex is a quaint space with five spacious rooms where a conglomerate is beginning to taking shape. These women are not only using material available within the local market they are recycling and creating innovative products and craft. Louisna, a leader within the team – which creates jewelry from recycled material, Micheline Deciuse,a constant force,  creates table mats and bags and knick knacks from recycled cheeco wrappers and agro ailimentaire  such as such as peanut butter and cremas,  Rosa Mica- who produces macramé and leather sandal ,and Judithe who produces all sorts of crocheted garments. What sets these women apart their tenacity to keep striving,to continue to impact their community by showcasing their talent.

 “ this is only the beginning, we have great plans- we want not only to showcase are carefully crafted good, but to teach other within our community, grow this vision not only for the  development of this shop but for the future of this nation” Louisna explained.

To import or to create- while at times the two walk hand in hand- I prefer the latter.


 
An excerpt from our intern's this summer-http://thirtydaysinhaiti.wordpress.com/pictures/
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The main reason I’m down here in Haiti is to provide assistance with many different things at Ernso’s HPCD office. HPCD is an entrepreneurial development firm that provides both financial support, incubator space, and business development lessons to Haitian entrepreneurs who are trying to create sustainable businesses for themselves. You can learn more about HPCD and their efforts under the HPCD tab I’ve provided at the top of this blog page.

So far at HPCD I’ve taken on many different projects. Upon arrival here in Haiti, Ernso told me that in order for these entrepreneurs to maximize their potential and reach markets outside of their communities in Port-au-Prince, they must have a basic understanding of English and computer skills. He asked if I could start teaching an English course that some of the past interns have helped draft during their time at HPCD. In addition to the English course, an introductory computer course needed to be drafted from scratch. I immediately began reviewing the material for the English course. I was very excited to begin drafting my own introductory computer course and started drafting the outline and lesson plans for that as well.

Because I’m a native English speaker, it might come across a bit bizarre when I say that I’m much more comfortable teaching the computer course than the English course. I think, to a point, this is because I designed the computer course myself instead of jumping into pre-written material like I did with the English course. But mainly, I think I’m only less comfortable teaching English because I don’t ever really remember learning English; English just kind of.. happened. It was something that has built itself up through continuous years of living in an English speaking society. But computers is a different story; it’s a completely different approach. I specifically remember learning how to use a computer and its many resources over the years. I know which steps are necessary to learn first. I can see how different skills are acquired only after learning the more basic ones. This structure of learning something new such as computers is something I’ve had a hard time applying to teaching English.

Despite my comfort of teaching one course over another, I’m optimistic about both courses and look forward to spreading this knowledge to a group of hardworking individuals who are going to benefit directly from their newly acquired skills. I’ll be working alongside other interns to perfect the course. There will a translator on hand to relay all of the material between us and the student entrepreneurs. This is going to be a learning experience for everyone involved. It also motivates me to learn more Creole. I plan to come back to Haiti in the future after I graduate and I would like to be able to effectively communicate with the people.

I start teaching the introductory computer course tomorrow (June 4th) here at HPCD to 8-12 student entrepreneurs. I’ll blog more about how both the computer course and the English course have come along at the end of the week.


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A few days ago we celebrated 50 extraordinary women. 50 women entrepreneurs committed to sustainable job creation and the evolution of local goods.Women that under went our  12 month incubation program and came out victorious. Help us congratulate these women listed below.
 
Through out the past summer months we have been graced to host team of interns from Penn State from three weeks to one month intervals. Andrew Luettgen, a senior in  telecommunications, was the first one to arrive of the bunch. Throughout these months they had the chance to immerse themselves in our culture, food, ambiance and partner with us at HPCD to continue creating sustainable jobs in Haiti.  Below are Andrew's first impressions through out his time at Ayiti Cheri
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I woke up on the plane to the dude next to me handing me the customs forms I needed to fill out. A few days prior, DJ told me that these customs forms would be handed out within the last hour of the flight, so I knew we were close. Originally I thought I would have been moPere nervous knowing that I was about to land in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, but I think I got all the butterflies out the night before when I said goodbye to my family and eventually my dad at JFK. I waited for the dude to finish up with his pen so I could borrow it. As he handed it to me, I looked out the window at the Atlantic and saw two small islands with white sand perfectly outlined by some of the brightest blue water I’ve ever seen. Haiti was close.

By the time I finished the customs’ forms, the pilot had already begun lowering altitude. A few minutes later I got my first glimpse of the Haitian coast. Small settlements lined different parts of the bright blue beaches. My eyes followed the dirt roads away from the ocean and toward the mountains where more settlements could be found scattered around the mountains’ peaks and bases. Haiti has some of the most mountainous terrain in the Caribbean. The mountains don’t really remind me of the ones back home in Happy Valley or the Coal Region. They’re more like the ones I saw in Los Angeles: brushy, tall, and a bit rocky.

Finally we came in over Port-au-Prince. The city is jammed between a wide bay and a few tall mountains. Before this trip, I read on several websites that this placement creates an amphitheater-type layout for the city as many houses crawl halfway up the mountains that surround it. Now, I’d say that that’s a fair comparison. From this bird’s-eye view, I was able to see everything in the city. The streets are tight. The tin roofs were most noticeable. A river that flows through the city was lined with some tents. I could see people walking through the streets, many on bikes. Cars kicked up dust from the dirt roads. A few people were running around on a very dry soccer field. The airport’s runway was just a few miles off in the distance.

The plane dipped lower and I got a closer view of where I was about to be. The plane’s tires touched down, we came to a halt, and I grabbed my bags. DJ told me the first thing I would notice was the heat. I’d say it was hot, but it wasn’t overbearing. I liked it. I walked down from the plane, across the Tarmac, and into the airport. I’ll admit I was a bit surprised when I walked into the airport. It was very nice inside. I don’t even remember what I was expecting, but this wasn’t it. I passed the band DJ told me I’d see and I tossed them a buck, found my bags at baggage claim, and continued through customs. This was the first time the language barrier became an issue. For some reason it took me by surprise, but then I smiled because I realized that it was all part of the experience that I had been waiting on for months. Luckily I was able to get by copying what everyone ahead of me would do. It worked for the most part, and when it didn’t, the airport workers helped themselves to my stacks of documents and tags to find what they needed.

My last stop in the airport was Digicel, where I would buy a cheap phone, add minutes, and call Ernso to tell him I had arrived. The lady in Digicel spoke broken English, but it worked. Somehow I ended up going from paying $25 to $86 to $53. All I know is that I had a phone with 200 minutes of international and local calling, and that’s what I needed. I called Ernso right away. This was also the first time I would be talking to him. Ernso is the man who runs HPCD (Haitian Partners for Christian Development), the office I’m working at, owns the house I am living in, and who I needed to pick me up at the airport. The phone worked and he said he would be there in 15 minutes. On my way out of the airport I managed to dodge most of the bag men who ask all travelers if they need help with their luggage or with finding a taxi. I just kept saying “No, merci” and continued walking. However, one guy reeled me in. He led me to the place where I would wait for Ernso. He then asked for $20. I told him I’d give him $2. He said “but I provide the excellent service.” I told him I can’t give him $20. That $20 turned into $3, which he was cool with. If anyone deserved $20, it was the next dude that helped me; he was great. At first I didn’t want him to help, but he did it anyway. He picked up my bags from the ground and put them on a cart. We spoke for a bit and I asked him if he could teach me a few phrases in Creole. He taught me “kouman ou ye?” which means “how are you?” along with “mwen byen” which means “I’m good.” He also taught me “kouman ou rele?” which asks for your name. My response was “mwen rele Andrew.” After this brief lesson, he spoke to Ernso on my phone to let him know where I was exactly. Then he hauled my bags down the sidewalk to where Ernso said he was at. I gave the man my last two singles and greeted Ernso.

I’ve seen pictures and videos of Ernso online, so I knew what to expect to a point. He speaks fine English. He is charismatic and we began good conversation immediately. Ernso is a man on a mission. He is a pastor for a non-denominational parish and holds mass twice every Sunday. He also runs HPCD, a business incubator for Haitian entrepreneurs who wish to learn basic business skills and need access to essential tools and resources for starting a business. You can read more about it here www.HPCD.org, though I’m sure I’ll be writing more about the office and its mission over the next few days as I become more acquainted.

As Ernso drove through the streets of Port-au-Prince I got to see a little bit of what the city looked like as he explained to me what I was seeing. The streets themselves are rough. There aren’t any road rules. Drivers just kind of go where they please, passing each other as needed and avoiding head-on traffic when necessary. But it works well for them. The drivers often beep at each other to signal moves they are making in traffic. This is different than beeping in America, where people usually beep to show displeasure with fellow drivers. Along the sides of the street were buildings in all types of conditions. I’ll get into more detail about the city as I explore more in the next few days. Right now I can tell you that my first impressions were of amazement. See, before I arrived in Haiti I had anticipated all types of emotions, good and bad. However, while driving through the streets, none of my first impressions were bad. I was in awe from everything around me. At home in Pennsylvania, people who know me best can tell you that it doesn’t take much to draw my curiosity. I’m able to find the magic in any environment. In these streets of Port-au-Prince, it was not hard to locate.

Ernso made a few turns and he told me we were on the last road to his house. We were only minutes from the airport, so it had not been a long drive at all. The road leading up to his property was very rough. Like most roads in Haiti, this one had not been paved. Because of this, most vehicles in the country are trucks or motorbikes. We passed out a few bulls, goats, and chickens. Ernso told me that while these animals look wild, they all belong to someone. At night, the animals will all make their way back to their respective owners. Years ago he knew of some people who traveled to Haiti for a lengthy stay. To eat, these people had been killing local animals for food. The people of the town began to call them thieves. Until someone explained to them that all of the animals belong to someone, somewhere, they didn’t understand why the people around them had gotten so angry. Ernso said that these people are lucky they weren’t killed. We laughed.

Finally we pulled up to the gate of the house. Like many places in Haiti, Ernso built a gate around his house to protect it from intruders. He owns six acres at this property and all of it is gated in. The gates are concrete walls instead of iron fences. Some of the walls I saw on the drive in from the airport had upside-down glass bottles with the bottoms smashed off sticking out of the top of the concrete. The sharp glass sticks up out of the concrete and serves as a type of defense to keep intruders from scaling the wall. I think it’s pretty clever and actually looks a bit cooler than barbed wire. Ernso doesn’t use this method for his walls though. His walls are just very high.

Ernso laid on his horn for a second and we waited for the gate to be opened. Within a minute the gate was pulled open by Bobby, a man who works for Ernso and the Jean-Louis family. Ernso briefly introduced us and Bobby gave a smile and a wave. We pulled inside and I caught my first glimpse of the house. My eyes widened and I think I actually gave an audible ‘wow’. The house was beautiful. Everything about it from the architecture to the landscaping was just awesome. Surrounding the house were lush, green, tropical trees and bushes. Two dogs, Sasha and Rocky, ran alongside the car. Ernso and I stopped in front of the house and stepped out. We walked up to the double doors at the front and stepped inside. He immediately began showing me the ins and outs of the property. The inside is even nicer than the outside of the house. White marble tiles line the floor, Haitian artisan crafts cover the mantles and walls, and small plans and bushes fill the corners of the rooms. The few pictures I’ll post of the inside of the house probably don’t even do it justice.

After showing me around the house, where I’ll sleep, and a few other places, he took me to the back porch to meet a few more people. Gina is a tall, thin woman who does some cleaning for the Jean-Louis family and their guests. I don’t think she speaks much English. Christina is Ernso’s daughter. She graduated from Penn State a few years ago and I’ll be doing much of my work at the office alongside her. With Christina were Myrla, Crystal and little Akim, a very content and curious one-and-a-half year old who made it very hard not to smile around. These three were members of Ernso’s parish and came to hang out for the day. I spent a few minutes talking to Myrla (or Crystal, can’t remember who was who). She looked at me the whole time smiling and kind of shaking her head. After two or three minutes, she laughed and said “I don’t speak English.” We both busted out in laughter.

Ernso showed me the rear of the house. The entire rear is covered by a green, iron, barred fence that arches toward the house, connecting at the top. The fence is covered by all sorts of vines and vegetation and creates a magnificent ambiance in the backyard. When you slide the gate open, you walk forward and see the pool and the rest of the back yard. The pool looks very appealing. To the right of the pool is a completed guest house with a few Penn State stickers on the windows. I liked seeing that. In the rear of the yard is another guest house that is being built. Ernso says that during the week, several youth that trained at HPCD come to work on this structure. This is just another example of Haitian jobs he has created through HPCD.

The rest of the backyard is complete with a tennis court and a few open fields that Ernso plans to build more houses on next year. The trees in the backyard include eucalyptus, mango, coconut palms, cacti, basil, and many others.

I really like this place. The scenery is beautiful, the people are nice, and the food is great, which I realized later in the day when we met on the back porch for dinner. The main dish was goat. As many of you know, I eat everything and anything. Goat was no exception. In fact, I thought it was very good. There was also Haitian rice, a bean sauce to pour over the rice, coconut water, Citronella tea, and a few other dishes. Everything tasted great, which was something I suspected after doing a lot of research online about the food. Also at dinner I met Carmen, a Haitian woman who has been living in the US for over 40 years. Carmen said she tries to come back about once a year to check on a few things such as her property. She moved to Chicago when she was young but quickly relocated to Los Angeles where she has lived for most of her life. Carmen doesn’t look a day over 40 but told us she is 60. I told her I don’t believe her and we laughed.

If today was any testament to how the rest of my trip in Haiti will go, I’m confident it’s going to be a good thirty days. As far as this blog goes, I plan to write a few times a week. I’ll post pictures, write about my experiences with the entrepreneurs, and try to give you guys a good sense of how I’m living.


 
Us here at HPCD are psyched about all the activities taking place through out this month.which support our entrepreneurs and gets their names out into public sphere. From our fair at Damien to our outings at the UN log base- our entrepreneurs have had the opportunity to meet over 500 prospective clients interesting buying their products.
 
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A special thanks to the UN, Center for Violence Reduction unit in Haitifor partnering with HPCD to realize our vision of sustainable jobs for all in HaitiThrough out the past three years the UNITED NATIONS has played an integral role in the viability of our organization  through their financial support of our two major project: Incubation and Youth Placement Project. With their help there are now over 650 working men and women in Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, who are supporting their families and growing this nation.

to learm more about their partnership with us just visit here : www.hpcd.org  and http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/missions/minustah/



 
Please take a second to learn more about the entrepreneurial revolution taking place in Haiti and how we are ardently working to make our vision of economic stability a reality.. we invite you to join in the cause.

 
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