Nov. 12, 2013
Enactus Memorial is joining the work of attempting to rebuild Haiti.
The undergraduate student team has partnered with a community initiative called Project Stitch, which helps physically disabled Haitians undertake rehabilitation while at the same time learn sewing skills so that they can earn a living.
Jonathan King, president of Enactus Memorial, says the team is helping to develop the business side of Project Stitch, which includes market research, developing a brand and looking for corporate sponsorships and business partnerships.
Mr. King, along with team members Shaun Morrissey and Jamie Warren, visited Haiti from Oct. 30-Nov. 3 to get a first-hand look at Project Stitch.
“Enactus Memorial is coming in to help create the second stage of the program,” he says. “We met with current participants of the program and learned their stories. We created strategic plans with volunteers on the ground in Port au Prince to create a profitable, sustainable business, and we shot a plethora of footage to be used for our marketing of the program.”
Project Stitch was created in 2012 by Dr. Joanna Cherry of the United Kingdom and physiotherapist Scott Gillenwater of the United States. It helps physically disabled people, primarily those in wheelchairs and with amputations, regain a place in their communities through an intensive, six-month training program to become professional sewers.
Team Broken Earth, a group of Canadian doctors that has been operating in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake that killed roughly 200,000, injured 300,000 and left more than one million people homeless, has partnered with Project Stitch to help provide sewing machines to participants.
Prof. Lynn Morrissey, faculty advisor for Enactus Memorial, says the connection to Team Broken Earth, which was founded in part by graduates of Memorial University, helped it make sense for Enactus Memorial to be involved. There is also no Enactus presence in Haiti already, unlike many developing nations, despite it being the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
“We haven’t gone international before. Prior to this, our approach was to share programs that were successful in Newfoundland and Labrador with other Enactus teams nationally and internationally,” she says. “We’ve been happy to work with other Enactus teams but we’ve resisted the urge to go into other countries just for the sake of it.
“To have an opportunity to be part of something like this is really incredible. It just feels right.”
Enactus Memorial will now be actively raising money to move the project out of the hospital where it’s currently housed into a production facility that can store inventory and allow more participants to be involved. They will be developing the Project Stitch brand and marketing its first product line of men’s ties as well as working with design schools in Canada to help prepare future product lines.
The team also hopes to acquire computers and send them to Haiti to teach participants basic business concepts and financial literacy skills.
For Mr. King, the on-site visit to Project Stitch inspired a passion for the project.
“Meeting the people was a true validation of the importance of this program,” he says. “Hearing stories of good, hardworking Haitians who have been paralyzed because they were shot and robbed for two dollars, or fell out of a mango tree attempting to feed their families, is heart-wrenching. Seeing them have the opportunity to work again and interact with others in similar situations is incredible.”