ATA Links Women Artisans from Haiti to Local Markets and Hotel Buyers through Soap-Making Workshops

Marie-Roberte begins the mixing process

Marie-Roberte Laurent, ATA botanicals expert, begins the soap-mixing process

After two decades of work and commitment, Aid to Artisans (ATA) has achieved many of its goals in Haiti. The broad range of projects implemented by ATA over the years has resulted in an increased presence of prominent designers, celebrities, buyers and funders serving the known craft centers in Haiti.

In an effort to reach the most marginalized population, particularly rural women with a lack of economic resilience who have been overlooked by larger development initiatives, ATA has decided to move its center of activity to Mirebalais, a poor agricultural town in the Central Plateau of Haiti. ATA has also expanded its focus from the renowned craft media of metal, papier-mâché, beading and stone to include raw materials based on locally abundant agricultural by-products and recyclable waste.

Fleurette Dubuisson, who allowed the workshop to take place in her own backyard, smiles as stirs the soap mixture

With the help of the Centre for Enterprise Development (CED) and the expertise of Marie-Roberte Laurent, CEO of Moi Spa Ritual and president of Belzeb, Inc., a Haitian firm that produces soap and other botanicals for the international and Caribbean hotel market, ATA conducted the first of its two-part soap-making workshops in Mirebalais for 15 women artisans from May 13-27, 2013 with the second part slated for mid-July. The workshop took place at the house of Fleurette Dubuisson, the artisan leader and most enterprising self-starter.

As a result of the training, all 15 women became expert soap makers, capable of producing and selling soaps independently. During the first workshop, they successfully produced seven different kinds of organic soaps made from hand-pressed coconut oil, aloe, morenga (a local herb with medicinal attributes), vetiver, sour orange, millet and other locally grown ingredients. The women are also currently working on orders received by Belzeb at the Femme en Democratie craft show in Port au Prince. All the soaps produced in the workshop will be sold to local customers and Haitian hotel buyers with earnings to be reinvested in raw materials for the next production cycle.

Estele Clervil, on the far right, poses for a picture with the other women as she stirs the soap mixture.

The soap-making workshops have inspired Dubuisson and fellow artisan, Estele Clervil, to attend ATA’s Market Readiness Program in New York and learn more about selling their products to US buyers. After the workshop, all the women were interviewed by a local radio show, where they happily shared their story about their newly acquired skills and plans for the future. TV coverage is scheduled for the second workshop.

Currently, Fleurette Dubuisson and Estele Clervil need funding to participate in our Market Readiness Program on August 17-21, 2013. To help these wonderful and talented women, please read more about them and make a donation on our fundraising page.

For more information about our Haiti project, please contact our Director of Program Management and Development, Monika Steinberger: