On January 12, 2013 Marla Bosworth and I went to Haiti to teach the first soapmaking workshop to OFEDA.
Since then I’ve been back several times, along with Benjamin Aaron, to help OFEDA continue setting up their business.
January 12, 2014, Benjamin and I were back in Haiti working with OFEDA on the 1 year anniversary of the soap group which also coincided with the 4 year anniversary of Haiti’s devastating earthquake. Four years later, these women (along with thousands of others) are still living in tent camps. This business is their push for prosperity and bettering their situations.
As we were setting up for the workshop the women starting making a pile of soap bricks to show us.
As the soap piled higher and higher, the smile on my face grew bigger and bigger. The soap was perfect. The piles of their four product line were consistent with straight edges and sharp corners. The colors were beautiful. The soap smelled wonderfully of the essential oil blends that they decided on from Benjamin’s last trip.
We decided to make two batches of soap, paprika and turmeric. The women set up two stations on the table to make each of the batches. Each station had a leader. They directed the women on what to weigh and how many ounces to weigh out. The soap was put on the ground and passed down a line of women to mix to trace.
Watching them work together as a group, efficiently, effectively and almost as if a single body, was simply amazing. They have this down. They are soapmakers.
We celebrated the anniversary of the soap group by passing out aprons (Thanks, Carlos) and passing out certificates certifying them as soapmakers. Aline and others cooked a huge meal of chicken, rice and beans, potato salad, fried plantains and slaw.
Most of this visit was spent talking about the business. On Benjamin’s last trip, he had spoken to the women (and provided and translated document – thanks, Christophe!) about setting goals as a business.
Garmane took out about 6 pages of handwritten notes and started reading to us her plan for the business as Rousset translated. She had taken the lesson that Benjamin had left them with on his last trip and applied it to creating a plan for the business which included goals for selling soap, a plan for paying the 21 women in the group from sales of the soap, a list of ingredients and equipment needed to up production and more! Garmane also introduced us to her mentor that she had found who is helping her with the business.
On this trip, OFEDA showed us that they are not only a well oiled soapmaking machine, they are now starting to think and act like a business.
Another thing we worked out this trip was packaging. OFEDA has four products so we took boxes and sample labels to show them based on what they told Benjamin they wanted last time. They had some revisions, so we have some tweaks to do. But they were very pleased.
This visit with OFEDA was simply amazing. They are making excellent soap and they are really starting to work on solidifying the business. We couldn’t be more proud of them.
We had two wonderful sponsors for this trip that helped out with the costs of the meal, certificates and aprons to help celebrate the anniversary.
Hope to Haiti – Scott has become a friend and mentor in what we’re doing in Haiti. We’re very appreciative of his help and support. Hope to Haiti has several projects going on. Visit his website here.
Hawaii Soap Company – Betty is a soapmaker in Hawaii who helped sponsor OFEDA’s anniversary party. Betty does her own good work in Hawaii by supporting the local community with large quantities of soap: low income housing, “Babes in Boots” for female Hawaiian soldiers overseas and the people undergoing chemo at the Infusion Center at Kona Community Hospital. Check out her website here.
THANK YOU to all of our sponsors, donors, supporters and well wishers who are a part of the Lovin’ Soap Project community. We can’t do what we do without each of you.
Garmane led all of us–the OFEDA soapmaking group, as well as Benjamin and myself–with a vision, goals, a budget and projected wages for each of the 21 women in the group. The amount of raw materials and supplies was listed with the appropriate quantities, one by one. Just like start-ups here at home and in developed countries, they need start-up capital. They have the processes down, and now is the time for investments from all of us who have the means to help them. Their list of supplies and materials, which is astoundingly precise and succinct, totals about $2,500. The Lovin Soap Project plans to get these materials and supplies to them as soon as possible, as the next shipment from Rays of Hope (website here), our source for exporting supplies, leaves very soon. We have to make this shipment with these supplies, and as a non-for-profit, we are in complete and total dependence on the generosity and openhandedness of you. On behalf of OFEDA, HAPI, and the Lovin Soap Project, thank you so much for your continued support.