Cause of the Month | Elisha C.
by Sica Schmitz | Posted on May 01 2017
Through Bead & Reel I get to meet so many wonderful people and organizations, and I am excited to introduce you to one of them.
I first met Elisha through Fair Trade LA and was so impressed with her kindness and dedication. She is the founder of The Elisha C. Foundation, an organization that offers programs and artisan products that envisions a poverty-free world by empowering marginalized people to obtain financial stability. They offer long-term solutions to alleviating poverty and create lasting change through educational scholarships, job opportunities, and providing medical aid, among other programs. They are breaking the cycle of poverty one individual and one story at a time.
This month we are giving back a portion of each sale to The Elisha C. Foundation, so I spoke to Elisha about Haiti, the work she does, and how we can all be a part of empowering others.
Why do you work in Haiti?
Haiti is known as “the republic of NGOs” because of its heavy dependence on foreign aid. The Haitian people live in daily instability due to the lack of a self-sustaining economy. The greatest need, as well as the best solution is jobs. Training skilled workers and creating job opportunities for the 80% of the population living under the poverty line will sustain individual families, eventually bringing stability to the country as a whole. Other benefits include orphan prevention, higher education and accessibility to healthcare. Empowering local people and communities will put the country back in the hands of the Haitian people – a lasting impact for the future generations to come.
What's your favorite thing about Haiti?
The people. Some of the best people I know are in Haiti. There are families I look up to, who model true love and unity like I've never seen before. Perhaps it is because they have yet to be polluted by the modern society. They still hold onto the important values of community, and the basic principles of friendship. Every time I go back, I am humbled by their ability to love, sacrifice and share with each other. They bring me back to the one thing humanity really needs, which is love.
What is the easiest way for someone to help those in need in Haiti?
Sometimes philanthropy work can seem very daunting and only for the wealthy. But many are surprised to learn how simple it can be adopted into our daily lives. One of the ways someone can help is to purchase products made in Haiti to support job creation. It may take more effort to find these products, but I know most of these artisan groups and they are truly creating something sustainable in communities that are deeply lacking stability. Another way I encourage people to invest their money is by sending kids to school. Many are surprised to learn that to send a child (from preschool to 2nd grade) only costs $100 a year, which is less than $10 a month! To send a student to university on average costs around $1000 a year, which is less than $100 a month! These are ways you can invest in individuals that will change the course of their lives forever. To change the future of a country, you must educate the youth.
What is your favorite product in your shop and why?
That is a tough question! All the products are so special to me. I’ve seen them all grow out of the rubbles of Haiti and I am so proud of all the artisan groups we work with. I feel like even my own life has been elevated with the use of the all natural and organic beauty products, jewelry, and coffee. Recently, there is one product that I am very passionate in sharing, which are the artisanal chocolate bars.
I remember many years ago when I discovered that Haiti produced cacao beans, but no one has yet turned them into Haitian chocolate bars. At that moment, I already declared that soon it would exist. About a year ago, I was at a hotel in Cap Haitian when they gave me a Haitian Chocolate bar to try. Can you imagine my excitement? Someone finally decided to create the first bean-to-bar chocolate from Haiti. Not only is it top quality, the packaging is like a piece of art. I feel like I am part of history in the making. And people have been so proud of getting their hands on these first chocolate bars from Haiti.
What makes you so passionate about Fair Trade as a solution?
When I first started Elisha C., I wasn’t familiar with the Fair Trade movement yet. I just knew job creation was the solution to ending poverty. I’ve seen first hand how a job can sustain a whole family, keep families together, send kids to school, and give so much hope to people. When I learned about Fair Trade and met like-minded people who are fighting for the same cause all around the world, I was delighted. Something so simple as paying workers fair wages and giving people a sustainable job has the power to change communities and nations. This is the key to ending poverty around the world.
Do you have a favorite uplifting story about something special that has happened because of your efforts in Haiti?
Gregory, the baker.
I’ve known this young man, Gregory for over 8 years now. When I first met him, his family didn’t have money to send him to school, but he was a brilliant man. When we played the game BINGO with the kids, he can memorize several cards without using any rocks to mark the numbers. His mind is one-of-a-kind. Few years later, he started working at a local bakery and eventually got promoted as the bakery manager. He came to me one day with the dream of opening his own bakery. I knew he had the capability to do it, but he didn’t have the seed money. Through a Haiti Expo we held in St. Louis, a man who used to be a baker himself sponsored the launch of Gregory’s bakery! For only $600, we were able to pay for the first year rent and help Gregory start his own bakery business. Within a few years, he was able to sell this small bakery business in the village to start a bigger clothing business in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Now he has not only made it in the big city, running his own business, sending his sister to school, taking care of his mom and grandma, but he is about to get married! We gave him a jump-start to his life. If it weren’t for this opportunity, he would probably be stuck in the small village just trying to survive. Now he can thrive and help others around him. When I think of Gregory, I am reminded of the significance of our work in empowering individuals to reach their highest potential.
What's your favorite traditional Haitian recipe (vegan preferred, please!)?
Madame Jo was the best cook who shared everything her family had to feed the hungry children in the village. Many kids had food to eat because of her. Unfortunately, she had a stroke in December and due to the lack of medical care in a developing country, she passed away shortly after. She made the best Haitian hot chocolate, which is this thick drink they enjoy with fresh bread often times as a meal. Last June, we told her to teach us how to make it and in honor of this unsung hero, we made a recipe book where all proceeds go to help her family. Here is our favorite Haitian Hot Chocolate recipe!
Madame Jo’s Haitian Hot Chocolate
Prep Time: 10 min | Cook Time: 20 min | Serves 10-15 people
4 cups water
2.5 cups Brown Sugar
3 Tbsp Vanilla Syrup
1 tsp Vanilla extract
Small Lime Peel
½ Tbsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Nutmeg
4 cans Concentrated Milk (170g/160ml) (use concentrated coconut milk to veganize)
Pinch of Salt
Haitian Choko (Pure Cacao)
4 Whole Star Anise
1 Tbsp Flour (+/- depending on desired thickness)
Put washed lime peel, cinnamon and star anise into water. Bring water to boil. Once water is at a rolling boil, add chocolate. Grate nutmeg into boiling hot chocolate and add brown sugar. Stir in Vanilla syrup, Vanilla extract, and concentrated milk. Mix Flour with equal parts cold water in a separate bowl and add to Hot Chocolate. Strain the hot chocolate. Serve and enjoy!
What is a biggest misconception you hear about Haiti, and what's the truth about it?
"People are poor in Haiti because they are lazy."
Unfortunately, in Haiti you see a lot of people sitting around doing nothing combined with a laid back Caribbean attitude while running on “Haitian” time, which means always late. This can easily cause people to label them as lazy. But here are some truths about this misconception. First of all, over half the population is unemployed, which means most of the people have nowhere to work. For decades their villages has not seen change or anything new. A lot of kids would rather just stay in school because they know even if they graduate, there is no work for them anyways. It is a sad situation. Second of all, Haiti is nicknamed “the republic of NGOs” because for decades the flood of NGOs has been giving “hand-outs” after each natural disaster, which has disabled the people. Instead of empowering them by giving a “hand-up”, they have become reliant on these trucks that pass by once in awhile to drop off supplies. We have been the cause of this problem. Even Bill Clinton has apologized for the subsidization of US rice that poured into Haiti during his administration, which ultimately destroyed the agricultural sector of the country. Therefore, we must be the ones to fix this issue by empowering the people and “teaching them to fish.”
What's your favorite inspiring quote about fair trade or helping others?
There are so many!!
Mother Teresa: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
An African Proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
An Old Proverb: “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”
These are all quotes we live by at Elisha C.!
Note: We love Elisha C's products, but many of them aren't vegan so be sure to check the materials/ingredients!