PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti—Five years ago, Americans Corrigan and Shelly Clay wanted to adopt a Haitian child. While visiting a few of the country’s many orphanages, they learned some orphaned children actually aren’t orphans: They have parents who cannot afford to keep them.
Instead of using their money to adopt, the Clays moved to Haiti with their four children in 2008 with a different plan—put impoverished people to work so families can stay intact.
Corrigan Clay’s undergraduate degree in visual arts and his master’s degree in theology and the arts helped lead the couple to found an artisan guild called The Apparent Project. The group employs Haitians to craft hand-made jewelry and decorative items made of recycled and other materials. The artisans also use a hand-built kiln to make clay beads.
Off a dusty street in Port-au-Prince, the Apparent Project’s complex includes work rooms, a gift shop, a coffee café reading room, and a small home next door for the Clay family. More than 200 artisans work for the project, and about 70 percent are women. The group sells items in the shop, and also ships internationally.
Shelly Clay’s mother runs a distribution center in Seattle for home parties. Proceeds from the jewelry sold in the United States goes back to Haiti to pay the artisans for their labor. Employees receive 60 percent of the sales. The remainder goes toward quality control, rent, and other overhead.
Makilene is like many of the Haitian artisans at The Apparent Project. When she met the Clays, the Haitian mother was trying to place her five children in an orphanage so they would have shelter and food.
“She was widowed and in a desperate situation,” Shelly Clay said. “She has been one of our top producers and has worked hard enough that she bought land and a small two-room house. She did not have to put her children in an orphanage.”
The Clays say many Haitians have difficulty planning for the future. The couple tries to help by showing artisans how to calculate how much jewelry they need to sell to purchase items they need.
The couple also says that without a foundation in Christ, they couldn’t have moved from a life of organized ease to serving God in Haiti’s disorder. But seeing Haitians joyful at work—and providing for their families—motivates the Clays to continue, and the Haitians to succeed.
“If we can’t work, we are not living up to our God-given talents and creativity,” Clay said. “These people need to know they are beloved and have value.”
Read more about work in Haiti done by our International Hope Award winner, HOPE International.