By Linda Unger*
April 19, 2013—Though they never set foot in the room, the women of Haitian Artisans for Peace International (HAPI) were present at every table during UMCOR’s “Haiti Night” celebration for its board of directors last week.
UMCOR commissioned the women to create centerpieces to adorn the tables at the event. Each one contained six handcrafted items: visual representations of the progress UMCOR and its partners, together with the people of Haiti, have achieved since the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country.
HAPI is one of those partners. Located in the rural and mountainous community of Mizak, about 50 miles south of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, it began in 2007 as a fair-trade artisan co-op, focused on spirituality and creativity.
Through the marketing and sale of handmade items such as those contained in the centerpieces, HAPI programs promote women’s economic development and empowerment, community-based health care, microcredit opportunities, and communities of shalom, or peace.
Each of the centerpieces for Haiti Night was beautifully crafted and replete with meaning.
The hand-woven basket that contained the other items represented UMCOR’s commitment to integrated community development and agriculture-based livelihood works. A framed, hand-embroidered card depicting a small Haitian home symbolized UMCOR’s support for women’s business-development projects and for the construction of permanent shelters for earthquake-affected families.
“Peace-pal” dolls represented UMCOR’s support for children through its projects to build or repair classrooms and school kitchens, provide hot lunches and school kits, and offer educational support to teachers as well as students.
A bar of handmade soap encased in an exfoliating coffee-bean sack cover represented UMCOR’s water, sanitation, health, and hygiene projects. And a handcrafted sisal angel was tucked in among the other items as a reminder of God’s presence and grace, the source of shared faith, hope, and love.
The individual centerpieces were auctioned off at the end of the evening, with proceeds returning to HAPI to support its work.
*Linda Unger is senior writer for the General Board of Global Ministries.