Long before starting Haiti’s Jewels, I (Sophie) had a knack for building things. As a child it was model airplanes and cars with my dad, knitting, quilting, drawing, legos. I spent unquantifiable hours at a drafting table in my basement just making things. The January 2010 earthquake in Haiti awakened a new kind of craft – Jewelry. Playing around with broken glass, rough stones, and wire was something I did for fun, I saw beauty in it and thought it could be something more than trash. I never imagined that over the years this hobby would create opportunities for myself, let alone other people! But alas, in 2012, Haiti’s jewels launched and the broken glass earrings have been a hit, helping launch this social entrepreneurship into success.
Women have always appreciated Haiti’s Jewels for its originality but we lacked some product diversity in the beginning. I was very focused on perfecting this one method of creating one style and it was hard for me to see outside of that. Over the next few weeks I took time during our team meetings to encourage creativity and reinforce the importance of each artisan’s design skills. It wasn’t long before Richard discovered something pivotal.
Victor Richard came walking up the mountain to our workshop a few minutes late with his little yellow pail. He grinned when I opened my mouth to comment on his tardy-ness and opened the lid on his bucket.
“Sophie, look at what I found.” He reached into the bucket and pulled out a small fist full of shiny grey, oval-shaped seeds that almost looked like dark, over-sized pearls.
“Richard, where did you find these?” I asked as I held out my hands.
Richard shared that he taken a vacation in Jeremie and went out fishing one night. On his way home he was crossing a river and noticed men scooping baskets into the water and fishing something out. When he went down to get a closer look, he noticed little grey seeds swirling and twisting in the current. He thought they were pretty and brought a whole bucket of them back to Gressier to impress our team… Brilliant!
We all congratulated him on his discovery and he proudly pointed to a dark hole going through the seed.
Majok seeds have all of the qualities of a bead, when you look closely, there is a whole in the seed in which the plant grew through it. With a needle or safety pin you can push the plant fiber out and it leaves a hole big enough to pass a needle and thread. They are perfect for making jewelry.
Richard was a catalyst of creativity with these seeds. Before the discovery of the beautiful Majok seed, the only Haitian product we used was recycled glass and imported anything else we needed from the states. It has been wonderful to start using the natural wealth Haiti offers and represent her beauty in other ways. Haiti’s Jewels is now using hand-hewn coconut, local goat/cow leather, and sand-cast recycled aluminum materials to create jewelry that changes lives.
We are very blessed to work as a team at Haiti’s Jewels because no one of us is limited by the walls of our own minds, rather we are constantly bending, breaking, and molding our minds to encompass new ideas and techniques. As individuals we are limited, narrow-minded, and focused but when we join together and look at the world from 9 different points of view, then we’re a team! We know now to keep our eyes wide and the innovative parts of our brain alive… because the possibilities are endless.