The Lovin’ Soap project was invited by HAPI to come and teach in Mizak, Jacmel which is in southern Haiti.
Back in June, Benjamin, Kym and I (Amanda), traveled to Haiti to teach soapmaking to a co-operative group of women. This was my fourth trip to Haiti this year and Kym and Benjamin’s first! It was so wonderful to be back in Haiti continuing our project. Once we first got into Haiti we went and visited OFEDA which is the first group that I started working with this past January. They are doing well, making lots of soap and moving forward with their business. We still have a lot to work to do with them and will continue towards their success (more about OFEDA in another post; these women are amazing!).
The next day we got up bright and early to travel to Mizak to visit a new group that was interested in starting a soapmaking business. Mizak is down in the southern part of Haiti in Jacmel. Our expert driver Marco got us up the winding mountain roads in one piece. Marco has been my driver in Haiti since my first trip in January. He is amazingly kind, helpful, resourceful and takes good care of us. When doing this type of work, drivers, translators, guides and all of these types of support people mean everything to the success of a project.
We taught two days of workshops to the artisan group, HAPI. The first day included our basic workshop where they learned the basics of soapmaking, safety, ingredients and more. We made several batches of soap and the group really picked up on the process. The second day we worked with them on using their natural resources as ingredients in their products…things like citrus, coffee, grasses, aloe, herbs…etc. Benjamin also gave a wonderful class on infusing herbs and other materials and then showed them how to use these infusions in hair oil. It was funny, the group looked at Benjamin teaching them how to make hair oil and asked if it made hair grow or if it made hair disappear!
More from my team below! Thank you to everyone who has supported this project by donating money or supplies, helping to spread the word or just general well wishes which have most certainly contributed to our success and efforts with the groups.
Haiti is abundant in resources that can be locally sourced and harvested for making soap and other body products, such as hair oil. We were amongst several different species of citrus trees, such as lemon, grapefruit and mandarin. The toning properties of citrus peel tighten the skin and scalp, but more importantly, it restores collagen to the body. After seeing the lay of the land in Mizak and the surrounding areas, we can move forward with oil infusions using citrus peel, which will not disrupt the food chain; in fact the entire fruit is utilized.
In the body care industry, the root of the vetiver plant makes for a very distinguishable and sought after oil. We witnessed vetiver growing in abundance all over the hills and southern coast. Besides having a truly unique and earthy tonality, vetiver oil is known to treat skin and scalp irritations. In the future, we can now develop a system for harvesting, drying and infusing the root into base oils, such as olive and castor.
Every morning we walked from our bunks to the community center and along the way passed by almond trees, avocado trees, corn, castor, hibiscus, and a variety of other vegetation that can be utilized in the process of soap making and oil infusions for skin repair and restoration. To make use of ingredients in body care from the ground-up (literally) is exciting and an easy next step in our process of teaching, as it is a very normal course of action for the group in regards to subsistence living – utilize everything around you. I’m excited to see what we as a group can come up with moving forward.
- Benjamin Aaron
While my much braver cohorts rode off to the Jacmel market on the back of motorcycles to source herbs and other items for the next day’s class, I decided to stay behind at the mission. I made my way back to the detached kitchen at the back of the guest house and offered to help with whatever they needed. Joana, Paul’s niece, was kind enough to translate for me, and the ladies got me started cooking. Well, mashing black beans using a large wooden pestle anyway.
As I mashed, water was added and then the beans mashed again. Turns out, I was making a black bean sauce that went over our rice that evening. They had to show me how to mash the beans the right way no less than four times, which made everyone laugh! I am sure I was NO help at all, but we had fun! It was an amazing experience that I am truly grateful for.
- Kym Wilson
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-Amanda, Kym and Benjamin
Picture from Mizak - Jacmel, Haiti