Guest blog by Amanda Griffith, from the Lovin’ Soap Blog, author of the Lovin’ Soap E-Zine series (check out Volume 1, Volume 2 and Volume 3) and creator of the Pourable Silicone Kit + e-book. She has also authored many popular blog tutorials like the Buttermilk Bastille Baby Bar and the biz-related post The Importance of Keeping Customers. One of the kits she created, Sunset Over Water is here. -Anne-Marie
On January 10th, Marla Bosworth and I traveled to Haiti to teach a group of women how to make soap. These women live in a government-owned tent camp with no electricity and no running water. They have very little to their names, but they had the desire to learn to make soap. They hope that by making and selling soap – and other beauty products – they can improve their lives one step at a time and eventually move out of the camp into their own place.
The women range in age from 18 to 82 years old. They met after the earthquake and decided to stick together and create a community – that they could be stronger as a supportive group for one another. They began meeting under a tree in the tent camp to support and encourage each other with hope and possibility. They named their group OFEDA (Organisation des Femmes Devouees en Action).
After seven months of planning, Marla and I boarded a plane and set off to meet the OFEDA women. Not a day passed that we weren’t either thinking about them or planning our workshops.
When we landed in Haiti, we spent the first couple of days with local suppliers to source oils, sodium hydroxide, essential oil and all the necessities that the women will need to buy. This trip we brought all supplies with us, but it isn’t cost effective to bring ingredients into Haiti. We found some great resources and formed some very important relationships. Most people that we talked to were very interested in assisting with our project.
Our first workshop was on January 12 – the three year anniversary of Haiti’s horrendous earthquake. The women came together on the first day with such joy, excitement and enthusiasm. They couldn’t wait to get started! I think the workshop was a good distraction for them on such a sad day.
The morning was spent making hot process soap. We chose to do hot process soap because the women didn’t have running water, didn’t have electricity and didn’t really have a place to store curing soap. Cleanup is much easier when doing HP. It just seemed best for the environment.
Bramble Berry was extremely helpful and generous by donating all of the oils for the workshop as well as scales, cutters…and molds! The molds were hugely appreciated! They are the silicone loaf molds so the women won’t have to worry about lining them and they are very easy to clean. When we told them that they get to keep all of the supplies and equipment they broke out in applause – they were so thankful!
Here are the women taking turns stirring the soap. They began to sing and dance to put joy and happiness into the soap. The first day we had 17 students, and the second day we had another 15 students.
The women were truly grateful that we came all of the way from the US to teach them soapmaking and to talk about starting up a business. They were excited when we told them that there is an entire community of soapmakers, family and friends back home that had helped make all of this possible.
Marla and I are extremely thankful for all of the support we have received on this project. We are going back in April to teach more workshops, firm up procedures, begin the first run of manufacturing, meet with local suppliers as well as local stores and distributors who have expressed interest in carrying the Beauty in Haiti products.
We are raising money through our fundraising page, http://www.indiegogo.com/BeautyInHaiti through January 31, 2013. After that you can donate at our website which is in the works at http://www.BeautyinHaiti.com
We appreciate the support we have received and can’t wait to share the rest of the story about this amazing group of women. I can’t wait to see how we progress in April.
You can find me (Amanda) online at www.lovinsoap.com and Marla at www.backporchsoap.com.