Olivia Hosey
Olivia Hosey
Haiti 2018 - 2019
Bonjou! I am living in Gonaives, Haiti for a year working with 2nd Story Goods, a social entrepreneurial retail company. I will be serving as the Administrative Assistant. In this role, I will be assisting them with their marketing and operations plans; I will also be working with local entrepreneurs to develop their business plans. Read More About Olivia →

it’s just the beginning

The past year of living and serving in Haiti has been something I feel like I’ve been waiting and preparing to do for my entire life. I cannot believe that my year as a Lumos scholar has come to an end, and I couldn’t be more grateful. When I look back at the past year, I am in awe at just how much I have grown and how much I have learned.

This photo was taken during my first few months in Haiti. My shirt reads “there is good in the world and it’s worth fighting for.” After all the hardships I’ve witnessed this past year, I still believe this wholeheartedly.

Though I set goals for my year-long Lumos project, I knew from talking to several other Lumos recipients that I should be open to the possibility of things changing and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. When I look back, it is interesting for me to see how things shifted, but how ultimately my work still revolved around the major goals I set, which were focused on creating systems for marketing and operations for 2nd Story Goods and assisting with creating local business plans through ProLead, Much Ministries’ employee training program.

 Most of my planning with my organization had been done over emails and phone calls an entire year prior to arriving on the ground in Haiti. When I finally got to Haiti last October, our director, Kathy, and I spent the first week having lots of conversations. I had several questions prepared so that I could understand where exactly the organization was, where she saw it going, and how we saw me fitting into the picture. The answers to these questions ended up steering my first few months. I was given a lot of freedom to take time to learn, ask questions, do research as I felt inclined, take on projects, and make suggestions. It was clear that Kathy had too much on her plate. Just as we had named my position in my Lumos proposal, I became an administrative assistant to her. I helped her manage her calendar, protect time to work on goals, and delegate more. 

A photo of one of those first meetings with Kathy (founder and CEO) and Valery (director of operations and HR)

All of my questions about goals led to me reading Traction, a book about strategic planning that her and the CFO were studying, which then led to me helping with planning how we could integrate its systems into the company. Most of my questions and thinking were around operations and marketing since those were not only my areas of focus but also where I felt most drawn. Looking back now, I see that learning about the operations of the company and seeing opportunities for improvement took most of this year, and is an ongoing process. It takes time to learn the ebb and flow of a business and all the systems that are already in place. That being said, I also had a special advantage at the beginning to be looking at things as a newcomer with fresh eyes; this led to me asking a lot of thought-provoking questions. As my first few months progressed, I was naturally drawn more and more to marketing. Because I was still learning about all of the operations, most of my ideas and suggestions tended to relate to branding and sales. I spent a lot of time talking and brainstorming with Rebecca, who lives in the US and is in charge of our US retail sales, as well as Adam, who also lives stateside and is in charge of our US wholesale sales and warehouse. I became a sort of bridge of communication between them and our Haitian photographer, and all of us worked together on really nailing down our branding. I also managed the Enactus team at Belmont who was working with us. They did a lot of research for us that first semester around trying to find a larger specified market to break into. In those first few months, I also really focused on forming relationships at work and learning as much Creole as possible.

One of my very favorite things about living in Haiti is getting to explore its beauty!

In February, I was asked to stay on at 2nd Story Goods for another year after my Lumos project ended and to immediately step into the role of Sales and Marketing Director. I joyfully accepted! One year in Haiti felt far too short, and I love 2nd Story Goods with my whole heart. This conversation came as a result of us using the Traction book method to restructure the company and form an organizational chart. I was also assigned the role of “Assistant to the COO”; we did this so that I could keep helping Kathy whenever necessary and also be a part of operations conversations. Defining these roles was so good for the organization and for me. I am so thankful I had the freedom the first few months to learn and ask a lot of questions, and then was able to transition into a role with a lot of responsibility. As head of marketing, I was now responsible for coordinating our marketing efforts both in the U.S. and Haiti and casting an overall vision and plan for our marketing. Stepping into this role was both exciting and challenging. No one was technically doing the job before; the responsibilities for it were shared by many and some had just fallen through the cracks. As a result, I didn’t truly have anyone preceding me who could show me the ropes, but instead was gradually entrusted with some large responsibilities. 

Working cross-culturally/lingually is interesting, challenging, and rewarding all at the same time! I am so thankful for the ways it grows and fills me.

The most difficult part about becoming the head of sales was the timing of it. Since July of 2018, political unrest has made tourism in Haiti practically non-existent, and because sales in Haiti have traditionally accounted for about 27% of 2nd Story Goods’s total sales, our in-country sales had taken a huge hit. As a result of this, I took part in helping to make a difficult decision to close our retail store in Port-au-Prince in June. Though it only resulted in the unemployment of one person, it was an extremely hard decision to make because we know and love her dearly, and job creation is our entire purpose. It was also difficult because the store was in a fantastic location in the Marriott Hotel, and it had always been the hope for it to be a place to display the beauty of Haiti. I left feeling heartbroken  the day we moved out of the store.  But it was clear that keeping the store open was hurting the company at large, and that fact put many more jobs in jeopardy. In late July, we had to lay off the majority of our Haitian staff for three weeks because the lack of sales had hit us so hard. When everyone finally returned to work, we sat together as they talked about how hard those three weeks without pay were on them and their families, and many voiced that they didn’t know how they were going to be able to pay to send their children to school for the upcoming school year. I left this conversation crying, collapsing a bit under the pressure of being in charge of sales which is directly tied to our artisans’ pay checks. I knew we had to do something to show our employees that we care for them, and that our customers care for them. So Rebecca and I worked together on launching a Back to School Campaign, so that each of our Haitian staff’s kids would get the first payment of tuition for the year paid for. We ended up exceeding our goal; when we surprised our staff with the news they were overjoyed. 

This picture was taken the day we moved out of the Marriott store. I love the meaning of the words: “a continual let there be.” The beauty of God’s creation is still unfolding.

So all of that being said, since stepping into this role in February, I have been putting lots of energy into rethinking our in-country strategy and finding new markets and new wholesale customers in the U.S. My work as the Marketing Director can be split into overseeing four main areas: U.S. retail sales, U.S. wholesale sales, Haiti retail sales, and Haiti wholesale sales. Because of this, I technically “manage” five people: the managers of those areas plus another marketing associate/photographer. In addition to meeting with them regularly to delegate tasks and manage larger projects, in this role, I have taken on related tasks that we have decided on as a team, worked on things assigned to me by Kathy, and also been largely self-directed. I have so many ideas of things to do to increase our sales and improve our branding and an endless to-do list to prove it. Some of my accomplishments since stepping into the role include coordinating a calendar system for our social media and email marketing, launching over 30 new products, creating over 10 promotions and sales, making my first ads using Photoshop, crafting our first Facebook ads, organizing our first influencer partnerships, coordinating product photography with our pro-bono stateside photographer (a Belmont alum who so generously offered to help!), and researching and reaching out to over 50 new potential wholesale customers. Over the past year, our retail sales have doubled and we have acquired many new wholesale clients; though I cannot take much credit for these things because we have both an amazing U.S. retail manager and wholesale manager, I have been able to tangibly see that my teamwork has been a large contributor to our growth. 

Second to the language, adjusting to food was one of the biggest challenges for me, though I did eventually adjust. I loved this opportunity to learn how to make some Haitian food with friends.

All of these things have had a direct impact on the company, which in turn has a direct impact on the community. Most simply put, more product orders equals more work for our artisans. If there’s anything that this past year has confirmed for me, it is the power of economic development through job creation. Most of my coworkers are living a much higher quality of life and providing a better future for their children because of their work with 2nd Story Goods. A job provides the means for their kids to go to school, eat, participate in extracurriculars, and hopefully continue on to college when the time comes. A job within our company culture transforms our employees into stronger leaders in their communities, which therefore leads to a greater impact in the community at large. 

Though at this point, the majority of my responsibilities can be done remotely, I think it was absolutely vital that I spent this entire first year in Haiti and that I spend another full year there. And while partly that is because of some motivation, advice, and leadership development I was able to bring with me, mostly it is about what I have been given. In this time, I have learned about the Haitian culture and how that impacts every area of our business. My major was International Business and I am 100% learning firsthand about that! I am learning so much about how necessary it is to be humble, willing to compromise, and patient when working within another culture.  

One of my favorite days in Haiti was when a friend took me to visit his family’s farm in the countryside! His dad proudly showed me his new horse and we ate mangoes right off the tree!

The presence of political unrest has made it a very interesting year to be living in Haiti. When the Haitian government lifted gas subsidies in July of 2018 that were enabled by a development deal with Venezuela, two things happened: people were outraged by the sudden hike in prices and the population realized that money given by Venezuela for infrastructure development was nowhere to be found and thus must have been pocketed, clearly revealing a high level of corruption within the government. Over the past year, there have been “manifestations” on and off, and a few times the country has been on “lockdown”, meaning roads were blocked, businesses and schools were closed, and protesting ensued. There were at least two days over the past year when I was not able to go to work because the manifestations meant it wasn’t safe to leave my house. There were more occasions when I wasn’t able to go to the market or the bank when I wanted to because it wasn’t safe to travel all the way downtown. There was a time when I had to seriously consider evacuating, though I ended up not needing to and being able to stay safe in Gonaives. And then there was the end of my Lumos journey; I was scheduled to fly out of Haiti mid-October, but ended up having to leave two weeks earlier due to increasing unrest. Haiti has now been having constant protests for over a month and a half. Businesses have been closed, roads have been blocked, children have been out of school, gas shortages have been prevalent, and prices have soared. Though I know I need to be in the U.S. right now not only to be able to do my job to the best of my ability but also for my health and safety, it was very hard to leave early and has been so difficult to watch the situation unfold from the U.S. One big reason for that difficulty is thinking about my friends there struggling and about how many people are stuck in these dire circumstances with no possibility of leaving. 

I got to do so many new things this year, including getting to try my hand at pottery, which is way harder than it looks!

Over the past year, I have become more familiar with the tragic consequences the trans-atlantic slave trade continues to have on our world today and the effects of systematic racism. In the US, some find it easy to pretend that slavery was a long time ago and doesn’t really affect the lives of brown and black people today. It is not difficut to follow the history of Haiti and see how slavery and racism have been huge factors that contribute to the state of the country today. While living in Haiti, the lasting effects of slavery have been evident in every day life, from people approaching me with mumbling voices and ashamed downcast eyes like I am some sort of master, to the deeply ingrained “slavery mindset” that includes the belief that people don’t really have control over their own lives. During this past year, I have also committed myself to learning more about systemic racism, white privilege, and the black lives matter movement in the US.  The more I have dismantled what society has taught me to uphold, the more I have started to understand the pain it has caused others.

During my senior year of college, I really wrestled with the privilege I have in life. I wondered what it was going to be like to live in Haiti of all places while struggling with such an issue. Incredibly, after a year of living in Haiti, the struggle is still present. As much as I try to push it away and carry on with my day, it still smacks me in the face very often. Sometimes it looks like really noticing the shack-like house someone on my street lives in for the first time, and sometimes it looks like three people in a row asking me to give them the equivalent of 10 cents on my walk from work to my Creole class. It is so easy to be living in my own world inside my head, going over my to-do list and thinking about what I will choose to eat for lunch that day; yet time and time again, I am faced with the reality of the struggles that so much of the world’s population still live with. I’ve had to learn what is and isn’t in my control and to give my very best to change what is in my control. I have found that doing my job to the best of my ability is the best thing I can do right now. I’ve also had to learn that I’ll always be learning, and that it is best to keep reading and keep listening with a humble heart.

I had to take a chartered plane from Gonaives to Port au Prince at the end of my Lumos journey. Flying over the country, I couldn’t see the chaos and unrest. All I could see was the unreal beauty. Perhaps more than anything else, this year I have learned how to hold both at one time.

To be honest, I think one of the biggest and most important personal changes has been with my ego. Though I didn’t know it at the time, for a long time, so much of me wanting to live and work in Haiti was about my ego. Through self-reflection and development over the past few years, I have learned that our egos are naturally the motivation behind a lot of things, and it’s not always a bad thing; it doesn’t always come out in a negative way either. When I was in high school and starting college, I used to love to tell people about my dream of working in Haiti. They would automatically think I was such a good person and would be so impressed (It’s funny because now it’s almost the opposite. I don’t particularly like telling new people that I live in Haiti because the compliments don’t mean much to me anymore and it often makes them feel uncomfortable suddenly thinking they are not doing enough for the world by living their “normal” lives and working “normal” jobs, which I don’t at all agree with!). Good thing I started working through this in college before actually moving to Haiti, because living a year in a developing country is definitely not for the faint of heart! It also will tear down one’s ego rather quickly, because in general, the people living there are not at all impressed. Often times, people (especially those I encounter on the street or in the market) are hungry, or in need, or uneducated, or don’t have formal jobs, and they see me, a white privileged girl with nice things. They do not understand why I’m there; they have no idea what a “Lumos grant” is or “sustainable  goals” are. If anything, I am more often than not seen as selfish- “sesh” as they sometimes call me- because I have things like money and food but do not share. Being called selfish by the population you are aiming to serve: talk about an ego destroyer! 

But while unpleasant, this has been good for me. It has helped me develop some tougher skin and sure as heck has made me analyze what I’m doing even more. It’s made me check my heart and pray a whole lot about my intentions behind things and for God to help take all the ugly ego-motivated stuff out. That stuff doesn’t leave unless it’s seen and worked through, and as a human, I will always have things like that to work through. The night before I left Gonaives, I wept. I do not think I have ever cried so hard about anything that wasn’t personally affecting me or a loved one, but was rather a fact of the world. I wept at the injustice I was seeing in the lives of the general population of Haiti. I cried for what felt like hours about the unfairness of it all, at the pain people were in and the exhaustion they were feeling, at the fact that a few rich people at the top were keeping all of the resources for themselves while people in their own country were starving. And as I packed my bags to go home, I realized that after a full year of living in this country, the struggles of it became my own more than they ever have before. Growing up I used to talk about how much I loved Haiti and its people, and I do think that came from a beautiful place in my young heart. But that night, after a year of living in Haiti and experiencing all of her glory of mountain hikes and ocean views and strong kind people and seeing so plainly so many of her lows, I wept for her like I imagine I would for my own child. And that’s when I knew I had experienced true growth and that it had truly become my second home. 

Before I left Haiti, my friend Madison (who was a Lumos scholar in South Africa) got to come visit. She is starting a social enterprise at the safe house she works at in Cape Town, and it was the coolest thing to get to nerd out about that the whole week, while also just having the best time together!

In the past year, because of the once in a lifetime opportunity afforded to me by the Lumos Travel grant, I have grown personally, professionally, and spiritually like never before. I have been forced to keep stepping farther and farther out of my comfort zone, and though it has been anything but easy, the growth that has resulted has been absolutely worth it. I have been given the incredible chance as a 23 year old to work within the leadership of a small company, and unique professional experience that will without a doubt positively shape my future career. And now, as a result of the year that the Lumos grant gave me with 2nd Story Goods, I have been asked to stay for another year, doing my absolute dream job. I will forever be thankful to Belmont and to the Lumos program for helping me get from here (Nashville) to anywhere (Haiti)!

I unexpectedly got to fly the plane for a little while on the ride from Gonaives to Port au Prince, and it just felt like the perfect, most random ending to this Lumos journey with all its twists and turns.

the quirks





Sometimes I take a step back and think about all the crazy little things that make up my day to day life here that have just become normal to me. I realize that if I were to describe these things to people in the US, they wouldn’t sound normal at all.  Things like walking around my house with a headlamp half of the time (the half of the time I don’t have power) because up until last week when I got my hands on a super cool solar lantern, my headlamp was the only source of light I had when the power was out.

Speaking of headlamps, I often have to get people to bring me AAA batteries from the US for my headlamp and D batteries for my fan because they run out rather quickly from all the use they get, and I have no idea where to even begin to find batteries here.

Speaking of lack of electricity, I buy a block of ice from the “ice factory” whenever my fridge starts getting hot from being off for too long. About a dozen men are set up on the side of the road with ice covered in sawdust (because it keeps it from melting!). I pull up on a Moto taxi and sometimes have to fight my way into getting a chunk of ice before they run out and have to go fetch another one. Typically it’s my taxi driver who does the talking while I wave my 50 gourdes at the nice ice man, while more eager customers congregate and wave their own money in his face. I have learned that lines tend to be a flexible thing in Haiti, and as a white girl afraid of confrontation in English let alone in Creole, I often end up getting cut in line whether I’m at the market or in a store.

Still speaking of lack of electricity, when the power does come on, I have to immediately plug up everything I can think of to charge, and remember to change out my 3 backup phone batteries since I just have one charger for them. I also have to remember to turn on the electric pump for the water for the house, because if I don’t do that a few times a week, I may suddenly run out of water while I’m in the shower. It takes about 20 minutes for it to fill the tank on top of my roof, and I often forget about it until it sounds like it’s raining outside my window because it’s overflowing and I have to run and turn it off before my neighbor scolds me for forgetting.

Yep, still speaking of lack of electricity. when we’re not in a gas shortage (which we have been for the last 3 weeks), I have to wait until I can fill my generator up with one last gallon of gas, then go to the gas station with my two little gallon containers and stand in line at the pump amidst a ton of confused and amused Haitian men. I’ve grown accustomed to not using my generator much at all, but I really like to always have a little gas on hand just in case.

Okay last time, speaking of lack of electricity. When power is irregular, I bring my backup battery to charge off the generator at work so that I can plug that into my battery powered fan at night, and sometimes make the decision to use some of the battery on WiFi so I can call people or watch a show.

Speaking of things I take with me to work, I keep a little compost container (making you proud, Dad!) mostly because if I have food scraps in my trashcan for a few days, I’ll suddenly open the trashcan to find worms squirming throughout it. I dispose of the compost in Kathy and Beaver’s compost pile, and while carrying it to work I get a lot of strange looks from those wondering why the heck I have mango pits and eggshells inside of Tupperware.

Speaking of trash, I strategically try to finish my jug of drinking water at the same time that my trash needs to be taken out. That’s because I get the drinking water filled and dump the trash at my roommate’s parents’ house, and I can kill two birds in one stone. I give the water jug to the taxi driver to set in front of him on the Moto while I try to balance the trash bag behind me. I drop the water off at the water filling place while I run to dump the trash in the trash dumping place, trying to hurry so my taxi driver can’t charge me more.

Speaking of paying for taxis, I am constantly trying to get change for “small money” so that I can have the right change for things I buy on the street or pay for my taxi rides. Money is often exchanged is mille gourdes (which is equivalent to about $10) but I need something more like 25 cents and 50 cents to pay for things a lot of the time.

Speaking of money, I have to be strategic about that too. Oftentimes all of the ATMs in town aren’t working so I can’t withdraw money without standing in a long line inside. I also don’t like to go to the bank alone because of safety concerns so that complicates it more. But! My roommate pays me monthly for the rent I had to pay for the entire year in advance last October. So I get cash from her that I change at the small convenience store down the road, but I have to be careful to not be too routine about that because everyone is watching the white girl change her money at the cash register. While I’m at that store, I often have to grab simple things like peanut butter or olive oil, even if I already have some at home, because sometimes they suddenly run out. (I do the same with little packs of Oreos or M&M’s too!)

Speaking of leaving my house, my front door locks automatically when it closes. Because I accidentally locked myself out so many times, my friend had to use a wire to make it to where it didn’t do that so that I had to use my keys to open it from both sides. I also had to make a little hook for my keys right beside the door. Then I got locked on my porch one time. So now, when I’m on my porch, I have to put the mop bucket in the door to keep it mostly closed so mosquitos don’t get in but to also keep it open so I don’t get locked out again. C’est la vie!

And the list goes on and on! What a beautiful, quirky, complicated, strategic thinking required life I get to live here! And I am strangely thankful for every little bit of it.

successful market day! all for about $5! speaking of lack of electricity, I have to go to the market a few times a week since I can’t keep things fresh for very long

Avocado season is my favorite season! It is literally as big as my head!

20 mile bike ride saturday, mostly uphill! gorgeous and exhausting

team work! unloading a huge order of journals!

ending big question monday with a game and the girls won!

11 months later and it still feels like a dream!

Happy September! It is actually crazy that I’ve officially been on this Lumos journey for 11 months, with only one more month to go. It feels like it’s gone by so fast. Though I am planning on staying in Haiti doing the same work for another year after my Lumos time is up, the end of my first year in Haiti approaching is definitely significant.

And I most definitely feel like my creole should be better than it is by now. For some reason, I have in my head that after living somewhere for a year, I should be fluent in the language. That, apparently, is not how it works for most people, which has been hard news for me to come to terms with, since I sometimes place too high of expectations on myself. I still am getting 4 hours of creole lessons a week, 2 hours on Tuesday night and 2 on Thursday. I have been the only student in the class for about 3 months now, which I think has actually helped me progress a lot since I’ve been getting so much individualized attention. While my speaking and (finally!) listening are always improving, the hardest thing for me has been steadily increasing my vocabulary. I have struggled to find consistent ways to do that amidst the busyness of every day life. We finished our book a while ago, so Creole class has just been conversation recently, which has been super helpful. Now my teacher is sending me words to be learning every week, and I am sticking them on a sticky note in my laptop and sharing them with friends at work so I can be challenged to use them more. I am also trying to pay more attention to my accent because I can use a lot of improvement there as well. Learning the language has for sure been the hardest part for me about this whole thing. After being here for almost a year, it’s really becoming evident that relationships obviously only go as deep as we can communicate. And I really want to know what people on the street are saying about me as I pass by! (Or do I really?)

I spent this weekend helping our warehouse manager and operations manager finish up taking inventory. Since we have over 1500 SKUs in our system, this has been quite a laborious process, but so important. It has been clear for a while now that a lot of the numbers we have in our system aren’t correct, so getting these numbers correct is going to be so helpful for us not only in truly capturing our assets to better understand the financial health of the company, but also for me in my job. When I can see clearly what things we have a ton of sitting in the warehouse in Haiti, I can make a marketing plan accordingly to try to move some of that product.

Though we’re still not meeting our goals every week, we have seen an increase in sales this month which has been awesome. On weeks when I’ve felt discouraged the last time I looked at sales numbers on Friday, I have come back to work on Monday to find that a large order was placed on Friday and have been encouraged. One week this month, we even went over our weekly goal, which honestly provided such a vital shift in mindset for me. I’ve been thinking for a while that it is frustrating that our sales goals are only based on what we need to make to break even, rather than what we can realistically do. But doing this work that I truly believe is of the Kingdom of God requires learning a new dance. One of balancing hard work with trust. One of doing everything we can possibly do with what we have, and trusting God to make something out of it and to do the rest. So I am trying to practice going to God with the number of dollars we need, and saying, help us get here. Lead me in my ways, show me where to focus my time, give me guidance from those who know more than me. This is difficult, but the more I do it, the more I see the fruit of it.

One example of that is the back to school fundraiser we are currently doing. After hearing how hard it was for our staff to be laid off for 3 weeks, especially because of school fees being around the corner, I knew we had to do something about it. To show them that we hear them and care so deeply about this. We decided to link a $5 donation that would go directly towards our families’ school fees to one of our products, and also offer people the opportunity to just donate if they don’t want to buy the product. We decided to link it to leather keychains that have “Haiti” engraved in them. The story behind this product is that Benson, our leather artisan, had a ton of leftover leather scraps that he needed to figure out how to monetize. He came up with these keychains that we could personalize with our laser engraver, so we hopped on board to try to sell as many as we could as fast as we could. Then the laser broke and we had orders coming from so many different directions and it ended up being a pretty big mess. So anyway, we ended having these keychains engraved with “Haiti” sitting in the US warehouse with more on the way, and keychains are the perfect “back to school” item because you can attach them to backpacks! A pretty cool little redemption story. We’ve raised over $700 for the back to school fund in the past week, and hope to raise more before our deadline on September 9. I am excited to show our employees how much our tribe of customers cares for them and is with them, even during hard financial times.

Part of my original Lumos plan was to help entrepreneurs here write business plans. While that hasn’t happened in the way I originally imagined, I have been so thankful to have gotten to do so with two particular businesses that are so near and dear to me. I mentioned in my first few months here that I was helping Prolead (our employee training program) write a business plan for the coffee shop/juice bar that is going to open in our new building. We have officially set a grand opening date for Market Place Gonaives; November 2 is a holiday to celebrate Gonaives so we are excited to be able to align the opening with that date. After months of attention being focused on other pressing things with the building, conversations about the cafe have started up again and it is so exciting to see it start coming into fruition.

The second business plan I’ve been involved in has been Pedale. Remember how I mentioned friends of mine had started a kind of club around bike riding? Well they have found an investor and are turning it into a real business. I have gotten to sit with them to talk through the ins and outs of it as well as make financial projections. It has been so cool to see how this knowledge from school is so valuable , and I most definitely think my entrepreneurship classes were some of my most important in college.

Yesterday, we had a group visit 2nd Story Goods. Typically when groups come, they are made up of foreigners, but this group was different. A few Americans brought the older kids from a children’s home a few towns away so they could learn about us and start imagining jobs and dreams and skills they wanted to attain. This is the first time I’ve taken so much time to give a group a tour, and considering everything I had going on I am surprised but so glad I did. It was amazing to see faces light up as the world was opened to these young people who had never even been out of their home town. As I was talking about everything that Much Ministries is and stands for, I had one of those “I can’t believe this is my real life” moments. I couldn’t believe that I am actually apart of these amazing things I was describing. That I get to do more than just hear the stories; I get to witness them. That it’s more than just pretty words in a fundraising email but real, messy, beautiful life lived out, and real change is happening here. I am living my dream, and 11 months later, I still can’t believe it.

I tend to feel like I spend too much time at my house on the weekends. So, last weekend, I rode my bike to my favorite spot, read in this little pool, and ate dinner by myself. It honestly felt like heaven!

Taken when I woke up for an early morning workout at a local gym. That’s its own story for another time!

The end of my walk to my Creole class is so peaceful. I always stay off of my phone and just look up!

Taken after counting over 3000 of those little brown beads for inventory. Not for the faint of heart

The keychains we’re using for the back to school fundraiser!

the both ands

A few weeks ago, I told a friend of mine that I miss playing soccer; she invited me to play with her and her friends soon. Last Wednesday, I showed up at her house ready to play a pick-up game. As we were walking down the street, I was just about to ask her how often she plays with these friends when we all of the sudden, we walked into someone’s yard to an entire team of girls carbo loading on Haitian spaghetti. They offered me spaghetti and water and passed me a uniform and cleats to put on. One by one, three young guys showed up dressed super nicely (one even had a bow tie on!) and I realized they were our coaches. They explained that we were in a tournament and this was the quarter final game. Then, they made everyone go around and say something as a kind of pre-game speech. I was still taking this all in and also barely understanding what was being said, so I said “thanks for letting me play with you guys today!”

Then, all of us were paired with a little kid to hold hands with like they do in the World Cup. We walked out of the yard, down the street and around the corner, and stopped behind a white sheet. When we walked under the sheet, we were suddenly standing in a roped-off dirt field with at least 100 spectators spattered around the edges and on the surrounding roofs while music was blasting from huge speakers. While we warmed it up, it felt like every eye was on me and my white skin (no pressure or anything! Ha!). Before the game, they played the national anthem, and someone’s pig got loose. It was running around the starters and refs as they stood in the middle of the field for the national anthem. It was at this point that I wondered if I was actually dreaming. The game was 5v5 because it was such a small field. That being said, it was the smallest field I’ve ever played on and the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of. As I entered the field to sub for another player, the whole crowd cheered so loudly because the white girl was playing. Our team ended up winning 9-2 with some pretty crazy goals, including one where the girl kicked it backwards over her head to score. After the game, one of the biggest celebrations I’ve ever been a part of ensued, and the cheering went on for at least 20 minutes. We went back to the yard where we first met which is apparently the team’s home base, I turned in my jersey, and took a moto home, not believing what just happened. Just a casual Wednesday night in Haiti!

This week, we released a new jewelry collection that contained more than 15 pieces. This collection took so much work, starting back in January when we were looking for someone to hire to design it with some grant money we had received for this specific purpose. We ended up hiring Tori, an American was Kathy’s right hand for several years here and 2nd Story’s main designer, to work remotely on the designs and then come to Haiti after she finished to teach our makers. Since Tori’s departure from Haiti over 2 years ago, the company’s biggest hiring need has been a designer, but obviously that is a big expense. For now, Kathy is doing most of the designing, but wants to move out of that role eventually. I’m currently in the process of hiring an intern for us for the fall to complete another collection for us. They will also work remotely on the designs and then come to Haiti in December to teach them to our artisans. My hope is for us to be able to hire someone more permanently soon, possibly with some more grant money. I think if we’re able to step up the game on our designs, we will see a big return on that investment and hopefully be able to sustain a designer salary without grant money before too long. (Which, by the way, is also the hope for me. I hope that after fundraising my salary for this next year, the company will be able to afford to pay me starting next October. Always thinking about sustainability here, and what things are the most important for that sustainability to happen. I think that design and marketing are definitely those things for now.)

Anyway, releasing this collection was very exciting. 2nd Story hasn’t released new jewelry since before I started here last October. I genuinely love all of the pieces in this collection and equally love the photographs we have of it. When Becca was here, we did a shoot with it that we were really proud of, and we also sent the pieces to Clara, my photographer friend from Belmont who is doing product photography pro bono for us currently. I haven’t yet gotten all the pieces I want for my own closet, but am slowly but surely collecting them. Getting to be a part of a company that makes beautiful jewelry for the purpose of living wage job creation in Haiti is maybe the coolest thing I’ve ever done? Knowing the stories of the artisans who make these things, getting to partner with them to build something out of it,  and then getting to wear these beautiful things proudly is one of the greatest joys of my life. Truly, how did I get so lucky?

As for a sales report, everyone has been back at work for 2 weeks now, but sales are still down below what they need to be. I was so happy when everyone was back at work, thinking that the rough times were over. But then when everyone got back, we sat together and talked about how hard it had been on them to be without work for 3 weeks. Moms talked about having to pay school fees soon and not knowing how they were going to do be able to do it. I realized that this 3 week furlough was going to take some time to come back from. That our typical work hard, love hard, laugh hard work culture might not feel the same right away. That these sorts of things have a big impact on people’s trust in their employer. That was all hard to swallow, but gave me all the more reason to keep working as hard as possible.

And then, this past week, after our sales didn’t meet the mark with our first week with everyone back, I had a moment of cracking under pressure when I just felt so responsible for our lack of sales and so fearful of what might happen if we can’t get them up (i.e. having to lay everyone off again). But here’s the reality that I have to remind myself of again and again: I walked into a situation of sales not being where they need to be, and I have not made it worse. I am doing my very best. I have been working so hard, have tried so many things, and still have a ton more things to try. I am not yet out of ideas or energy, and sure as heck am not yet out of passion. All that being said, I would still very much appreciate prayers as we head into the last quarter of the year. For new wholesale customers (at least one really big one!) and a growing retail following and most of all, trusting and following the Lord throughout it all.

Thus I find myself landing at something that continues to be a theme in my life: learning how to hold the “both ands”. So many things in life are not so much “either or” but are instead “both and”. For instance, in a matter of days- and often a matter of minutes- I feel both pure joy and deep grief (instead of either joy or grief.) I both love living here and truly miss so many things about life in the US. I both love the challenge of my job and am overwhelmed by it a lot of the time. I feel both fulfilled and drained, often in the same moment. Life here can be both extremely beautiful and unbelievably devastating. One day, I’m laughing at myself playing in a Haitian soccer tournament and the next I’m crying listening to mamas talk about how hard it’s going to be to pay to send their kids to school this year. Holding space for the “both ands” is not easy; most of the time it is frustrating and doesn’t make much sense. It’s easier for my brain to categorize into “either ors”. But accepting these “both ands” is vital to a life lived wisely, bravely, and fully. And I think it is in these :both ands” where we most clearly find the presence of God.  Oh how grateful I am to be learning this “both and” dance here and now, in a place where I am given as much space and grace as I need as I figure it out.


Pool days have been necessary most weekends lately! It is just too hot not to!

the prettiest hike I’ve been on yet! we pointed at a mountain (the tallest, pointiest one) and said “let’s climb that one!” met a few locals on the way who pointed us in the right direction. the best hike I’ve been on in Haiti so far and one of the best I’ve ever been on!

some of the new jewelry collection! The Libete earrings and Gatro necklace! All of the pieces are named after neighborhoods in Gonaives.

From our early morning photoshoot while Becca was here!

Proof that the soccer gam actually happened!

open mind, open heart

I have officially made it through what I thought was the hottest month, July, only to find out that August is actually supposed to be the hottest month! Wish me luck!

A few weeks ago, I had the sweetest treat with some visitors coming to Gonaives. Renee, who is the lady who I went on my second trip to Haiti with and the one who introduced me to Kathy to begin with, brought a team of rising college freshman to Gonaives for 2 days. I knew since they were from my home town of Knoxville and involved with Young Life, I would probably get along well with them, and I was right; they were truly such a great group! Since we don’t host mission teams at 2nd Story Goods, this was my first experience helping a team plan out their time; other than them being left at the hotel restaurant alone trying to order 10 pizzas, not knowing that a catered meal was on its way, it went surprisingly well! Having them here enabled us to bring several people who had been laid off back to work for the day which was such a blessing to us; since the team was mostly girls who found plenty of stuff to buy, it also really positively impacted our sales for the week!

Explaining the group’s time here will give you a taste of what your time might look like if you ever come see me in Gonaives! We had homemade Haitian spaghetti and fresh juice ready for them when they arrived, which was a huge hit since their bus took 4 extra hours to arrive due to breaking down; while they ate, Beaver shared with them the vision and story behind Much Ministries. They did a Make and Take session, which is when people get to work side by side with our artisans to make their own piece of art to take home. I ran around trying to help where I could as everyone enjoyed making bracelets, Haitian paintings, and shirts.

In the evening, we went to play soccer at the local stadium against a group of Gonaives Young Life kids. I was thankful to finally get to meet the guy in charge of Young Life here and am planning on visiting one of their Young Life clubs when the school year starts; Young Life was a huge part of my life in the US and something I really miss, so I’m really excited about that! It was my first time playing soccer since high school (over 5 years!) and man, I had appreciation for how in shape I was in high school until that day. I had such a hard time keeping up, but it was so much fun. I have missed playing soccer so much, and this incentivized me to try to find more opportunities to play here (last week, I shared this with a Haitian friend and she has already me invited to play with her and some friends soon!).

After the soccer game, the group checked in at their hotel, which also has a restaurant that is my favorite place in town and pretty much the only other place I go rather than work and home. We call it “Narnia” because it feels like a magical land that is a stark difference from the city, filled with lots of trees, greenery, silence, and peace. The next morning, the team woke up early to go on a bike tour with Pedale. Pedale is the official name of the new biking group that my friends run. It has developed into it’s own branch under their photography company, We Do. Renee’s group was there first official tour group! We rode to our favorite spot by the river, which we have coined “Flamboyant Beach”, named after the beautiful tree with red flowers- yes, the plant’s real name actually is Flamboyant! We swam in the river and ate a wonderful breakfast that included fresh pineapple and mango.

We headed back in town for everyone to get cleaned up. Over lunch, I told the group how I ended up in Haiti and how meaningful it was for me to have them in Gonaives. I explained that the centralization of Port au Prince makes what’s already a struggling economy struggle even more, and that’s why at Much, we are committed to the development of Gonaives. Having visitors coming to Gonaives to see the beauty it has to offer and to partake in the economy here is such a big deal! After lunch, the group got to do some quick shopping before they went to tour Benson’s leather workshop. Benson is our leather artisan who employs over 20 people in Jubilee, the developing community on the outskirts of town where 2nd Story Goods started. He is incredibly intelligent and inspiring. His favorite thing to tell groups when they come to see him is: the way you keep poor people poor is by giving them everything they need. I love to watch the awe-inspired faces of visitors as they meet Benson and hear his story of approaching MK with a Bible he had rebound in leather himself over 8 years ago, and then get to look around at his workshop and see what he has built in that time. It is so incredibly beautiful. His workshop truly feels like a sacred space.

Having this team come was honestly an answered prayer for me in more ways than one. Obviously, with our struggle with sales and people being laid off, it was such a blessing to have them come and lessen that burden a little bit. Additionally, showing them the best parts of Gonaives also gave me such an appreciation for my little slice of Heaven here; it made me realize how incredibly lucky I am to live this life. But most importantly for me personally, it really helped my view of short-term mission teams. Since living here, I have found myself having an unexplainably hard heart toward those who are here on these types of teams, and I have been praying about it a lot, because I know that is a toxic mindset that is not of the Lord. I think that knowing what my mindset was on my first two short term mission trips to Haiti- mostly comprised of a white savior complex- before I know what I know now is what causes me to cast unfair judgements on others. That is ridiculous because first of all, I cannot assume that everyone is thinking the same way I did on my first few trips, secondly, no one knows what they don’t yet know, and lastly, even if they are coming in with a similar mindset, they are just in a different part of their journey than I am- a part that was crucial for me in learning what I have since then- and when I was in that part of my own journey, I know I needed a whole lot of grace in order to keep journeying! Having this team here humbled me and filled me up. They wanted to learn just as much as they wanted to serve, and their open minds and hearts opened my mind and heart back up, too.

Update: everyone will be back at work this week at 2nd Story Goods! Thank you to everyone for your prayers, purchases, and words of encouragement. and please, keep them coming!

The wonderful Renee! I wouldn’t be here without her!

Had such a blast playing soccer, even though the Haitian team was literally running circles around us

Flamboyant Beach! there is a ton of natural clay there so I made everyone try out its healing properties on their face!

Pedale’s first ever tour was a success!

Had a beach day with our normal biking/hiking gang! Ate, drank, swam, and played the day away in the sun

Someone had a connection and we got this private beach with a pool and pavilion for the day for a super great deal. Look how beautiful!

wins and learns

There’s a famous quote by Nelson Mandela: “I never lose. I either win or learn.” We stand by that at 2nd Story Goods, calling things that some might see as losses “learnings” instead. I am learning to apply that philosophy to my life here as well.

The past week has been the busiest I’ve had in a while. What’s funny is I’ve been nowhere near as busy as I used to keep myself in college, but I have been exhausted from it nevertheless. I have come to terms with the fact that I simply cannot live the way I used to anymore, stuffing more things than anyone thought was possible into each day, and I am thankful for this post-grad season that has helped slow me down a lot. I now spend a good amount of time outside of work in my house; when I’m not cleaning, cooking, or doing dishes,(all of which does take up a good amount of my time) I’m calling friends, reading, occasionally watching Netflix, trying new recipes, napping, doing yoga on my porch, and journaling. Wow when I put it out there like that, doesn’t that sound nice?! I realize that life will not be like this forever (i.e. if I get married and have kids) but I really am thankful for this time that I get to be selfish. And with all the time for reflection, I am seeing a lot of internal growth, which I trust is preparing me for the unselfish seasons to come. (I’d say this is both a win and a learn right now! It can feel like a loss to have a less flourishing social life than I am used to, but I am learning to be okay with being alone more often, and even to really enjoy it!)

All that being said, this past week included very little time in my house, and that was a wonderful break from my routine, especially because I’m an extreme extrovert. Rebecca, Kathy and Beaver’s daughter, who is also one of the people I work closest with at 2nd Story Goods, came to visit. She is our retail sales manager and also handles all of our social media marketing, so technically I am her manager. But we are close in age, so most of the time it just feels like we’re friends! She works part-time while she is currently in school in California, and this was actually the first time we’ve gotten to work together in person. We worked long days, doing several photoshoots, rewriting some copy on our website, and doing a lot of thinking and talking about where we see our brand going. Outside of work, I joined the Brooks for dinner, we went shopping, went on a bike ride, had a pool day, and hung out with Val and Jude. I knew before Rebecca  left that I would be so sad to have her leave, and I was right. Especially because Kathy ended up leaving on the same day to go back to the US for a month and a half. Jude and Val are my closest friends here now, and I love spending time with them; I’ve never had such close guy friends and I am truly so grateful for it. But still, I cannot deny that I have always been a girls’ girl through and through.  And all of this made me miss Laura, my best gal pal here who is still on sabbatical in the US, because we used to do all those fun things together. I can’t wait for the day she comes back! And I am already counting the days until Kathy is back at the end of August. And Rebecca and I are already making plans for her next visit! (This whole week was a big win! especially because we got some really great work done)

Like I’ve mentioned before, our sales have been way down this year due to the political unrest in Haiti that has caused a decrease in tourism. Traditionally, 28% of our sales have come from in the country; however, sales in country have been almost non-existent this year compared to years past. Because of this, unfortunately we were forced to lay everyone off here for at least 2 weeks, while those of us who work with the US market try hard to make up the sales there. This isn’t the first time ever that the company has been forced to do lay-offs, and it feels like something that can come with the territory of building a company in a developing country. But it is my first time experiencing something like this, and is definitely challenging, especially when I’m newly in charge of sales and marketing. But I stand by what I’ve said the past few months (because our sales have not been where we know they needed to be for most of the year), and that is that I truly believe everything in our company is moving in the right direction. When I look at how things are constantly being uncovered that need to be done differently, new systems are put in place company-wide, and our brand is being communicated more clearly, I am so encouraged. So, though I feel even more pressure now to increase sales than I did before, I also have had practice these past few months in learning the lesson that I need only to do as much as I can and know that is all I can do. I’m trying to remember that even as I do get a little frantic trying to find new wholesale clients and tweak our retail strategy. (this is obviously a learn. we are learning SO much right now about how to do things better. So so much.)

A few weeks ago, I made yet another mistake that caused some people at work to be upset with me, and rightfully so. I posted something on our instagram story that was less than honoring because it sounded like we were giving hand-outs at work,  which  wasn’t true. It is a sensitive thing here because nobody likes to be painted as needing hand-outs, but that is often the way foreigners like to present Haitians to the rest of the world. Though like always it was very hard to hear that I did something hurtful, even though it was completely unintentional, it was a huge learning lesson. It ended up leading to some deeper revelations about how much I care about what others think and how I constantly feel misunderstood, and often time just plain disliked, as a foreigner here.

Val explained to them that I was so sorry and added that I was going to keep making mistakes as I continued to learn, so they would need to continue to be patient with me. I wasn’t there for that conversation, so without me even having the chance to apologize directly first, each person who had been upset made a point to either give me an extra long hug the next morning, ask how I was doing, and even invite me to hang out outside of work. The tears of frustration and impatience with myself from the day before turned into tears of gratitude for the undeserving grace I am shown here, for knowing that I am loved and accepted even when I am sometimes misunderstood. (this was a really good and important learn)

Even on the hard days, like making yet another cultural mistake or feeling the pressure of getting enough sales to bring everyone back to work, I am still so thankful to be here. Even on those days, I still cannot imagine myself being anywhere else. Even on those days, I am overwhelmingly grateful that this is my life right now and for -especially on those days- how much it is teaching me, both wins and learns included.

Couldn’t get the women’s world cup final to stream in Haiti on any platform, so my family FaceTimed me into the game. This was a BIG win!

Throwback from my Timehop app! 4 years ago, when I was in Gonaives for the first time as an “intern” with 2nd Story Goods! I put “intern” in quotations because in reality Kathy and I just had a few email exchanges through which she agreed to let me come, and then I hopped on a plane and followed her around for 3 weeks.

Rebecca and me after a full day of taking photos! We had the best week together!

Becca and me soaking up the sun after swimming in the river mid bike ride.

Went downtown via tap tap on Becca’s last night to get street food and milkshakes. I don’t typically go out at night so this was actually very fun!

When things were slow in the sewing room, I asked a few of our sewers to make a t-shirt blanket for me, and it turned out beautiful! Last time I came back from the US, I brought some of my most meaningful t-shirts for this purpose. It includes several Belmont shirts of course!

the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet

Happy July!

Friday, we went to Port au Prince to move all of our stuff out of and close down the 2nd Story Goods store at the Marriott Hotel. Unfortunately, after renting the space for 3 years, it just was not financially feasible for our company, especially with the large decrease of visitors coming to Haiti this past year. This was the first really difficult decision I’ve had to help make since being here. Though it will result in a slight decrease in our overall sales, it will automatically make us financially healthier as a company, and that is currently the most important thing for our survival. And for me, as head of marketing and sales, it will free me up from constantly trying to figure out how to increase sales there and enable me to put all of my energy into the US market for now.

We now are starting to prepare to move into our new storefront at Market Place Gonaives (the new building being built by our parent non-profit, Much Ministries). The building is getting closer and closer to being finished every day, and though it is still difficult to predict an exact opening day, we expect it to be this fall. The downstairs of the building is ready for the grocery store vendor to start their build out and move in process, but with the recent state of the country, everything has been a little delayed. We expect to be able to start moving into our new store in the next few weeks, which is very exciting! When I was here 4 years ago interning with Kathy, I actually helped them move the store for 2nd Story Goods from the foyer of their house into the garage next door, and it was one of my favorite parts of my time here. Everything was on a much smaller scale then and it’s pretty cool to think about how far the company has come since then.

Since I was in Gonaives with 2nd Story Goods for the first time exactly 4 years ago, I have been reflecting more recently, mostly on how crazy it all is and how lucky I am to be exactly where I am doing exactly what I’m doing. I don’t even think I can explain how perfect it all feels, how natural it has all been. Kathy always said that after I was here 4 years ago, she hoped I would come back but was almost positive I wouldn’t; that I would maybe get swept into a swanky corporate America job or something after college. It’s funny because when I left Gonaives 4 years ago, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, because the 3 weeks I spent here were some of the best and most formative of my life, in large part because of everything Kathy came to mean to me and taught me in that short time, and in seeing the dignity and joy with which the employees of 2nd Story were working. It was completely different than anything I had ever seen, and everything and more I had hoped it would be.  And the more time that passed throughout college, the more sure I was that I had found my calling at this little company in Gonaives and that when I returned to work in Haiti after college, I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. I think about all the internships, classes, travels, and experiences that I had between that first time in Gonaives and returning here after graduation, and I’m so glad that I didn’t just drop everything and stay, even though that’s kind of what I felt like doing. By the time I got here in the fall, I had grown into exactly I was supposed to be at the time before coming back to Haiti in every single way, and the timing could not have been more perfect. It all reminds me of one of my favorite Frederick Buechner quotes: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” That is exactly what it feels like I am experiencing here.

I finally got my Haitian visa! After 4 visits to the immigration office in Port au Prince, it is officially in my hands, meaning I can legally stay in Haiti for longer than 3 months at a time. From now on, I will just have to renew it every year. It is such a relief to finally have it, and now it is official that I won’t leave again until my Lumos presentation in October.

Lately at work, I have been trying to focus my attention on acquiring new wholesale clients. I have been doing a lot of research into possible stores, churches, coffee shops, etc. who would be interested in buying our products wholesale to sell ( if you’re reading this and happen to know of any, please let me know!) Thanks to the work of the Enactus team this past semester, we have a beautiful, super professional looking wholesale packet that we are sending out to all the brick and mortars, and I am emailing the PDF out to the online stores. One of the Enactus students is even going to stores in Nashville this summer and passing out the physical copies personally! Enactus also PAID for several copies of the packet. We are so very thankful, and I already feel so much comfortable doing cold calls, knowing that we have something so professional to give them.

I am also trying to figure out how to finish up our fundraiser so I can stay here next year; we have about $12,000 and need $13,000 more, so we’re almost halfway there. The original idea that I helped come up with was to do a kickstarter style where people get something in exchange for their donations at different levels; we are going to pivot from our current strategy and try that next! In addition to the money to do needed equipment upgrades and provide my salary for the next year, the money we are currently fundraising will also provide for a marketing budget (think: better marketing= more sales= more work for our current artisans and the creation of new jobs for more people= whole families lives stabilized and changed!). Since I have pretty much been working without a budget at all for the past 9 months, I am SO excited to have this money to work with to increase sales, and plan to use a good bit of it to try to grow our retail sales. I also found out this week that our retail sales have doubled in the past year. It was so encouraging to hear that the fruit of our labor is truly making a difference and that growth is happening, even when we feel like we are so far from where we need to be.

I am currently on the lookout for a marketing mentor to give me advice and feedback on my strategic decisions as well as how to spend real money wisely (spending real life money is scary! ), so if you happen to know of anyone who may be a good fit, please let me know (big plus if they are in a similar industry/start up type company) . I’ve realized that if I were working in a bigger company, there would be people with more experience with marketing as well as specialized degrees above me who I would be learning from, and though I am so thankful for the opportunity and up for the challenge, I suddenly became IN CHARGE of marketing, less than a year out of college, with only two introductory marketing classes under my belt and no prior experience. Though other experiences in college taught me a lot about it and I do feel like it comes pretty naturally to me (not to mention that I’m a millennial who knows so much about the power of social media and there is so much free helpful info online), I have decided that it would be wise for me to find someone who has more experience than me (which obviously isn’t too hard!) to bounce ideas off of and learn from. I think the thing that really drives me here is that I believe wholeheartedly in our company and what we are selling, and I think that really comes through in all of the efforts put on by our marketing team! I don’t really know how people sell things they don’t believe in! I know there are people who are very much okay with doing jobs that they aren’t passionate about and pursuing their passions on the side, and many people who just are not privileged enough to do differently, but I feel extremely blessed that my job is my passion. Now that I have that in my very first job, I am probably spoiled and would be very difficult for me to ever be able to do a job I’m not passionate about from now on! Ha. 

For now, I am so happy and present where I am that I cannot even begin to try to imagine what the future holds. And I consider myself so very fortunate to truly be doing a job where “my deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

The Saturday bike riding club is turning into a really beautiful thing! More to come on this later


Last Saturday, the bike riding included impromptu wall climbing and mango eating!

Every bike ride includes some time to swim in the river!

All moved out of the Marriott store :/

The whole staff took a little field trip to the new store! We are so excited for new beginnings here 🙂

Went on a spontaneous adventure last weekend to find this incredible spot!

highs and lows

The past few weeks have been filled with highs and lows. Kathy always says that’s how life is here: raw. The highs are unbelievably high and the lows are painfully low. The beauty is so crazy tangible and yet the pain is as well.

So, the lows. First, a not so serious one. There was a rat in my house for a time, taking bites out of my bananas (the only food I leave out and an absolute staple in my diet!). I actually had been told about it by a girl staying in my apartment before returning from the US and came prepared with no-touch, no-see mouse traps. When I got back, I realized that it had to actually be a rat. I have an actual phobia of these rodents and was so scared to be anywhere but in my room! After a few weeks, I realized that it was sneaking in at night through my front door and then leaving which brought me a little relief to know that it wasn’t always in my house. I bought some sticky pad rat traps on a trip to Port au prince, and the rat just ended up escaping from them every night. Valéry helped me make an attempt at a home made trap, with a bucket and a ramp and a cardboard piece where you put the bait, and then they fall in, and I woke up in the morning to find the bait missing and no rat in sight. Thankfully, I haven’t seen any hints of the creature in about a week now, and have moved my bananas to an unreachable spot. I knew when I moved to Haiti I should expect these kinds of things to happen, but I got so used to not having any problems that it really got to me when it happened! I guess this little guy was just trying to welcome me to the reality of my new home 🙂

Another low: I am so used to what life looks like here that I go through most days just operating “normal”, how I always have (which I have discovered over the past few years is not letting myself feel emotions I categorize as negative). But lately, I have found myself having moments when the extremity of the poverty here hits me. One day in particular stands out. While I was walking from work to my creole lesson- only a 10 minute walk- 3 different people asked me for the equivalent of 10 cents US. By the end of the walk, I was almost in tears. What kind of desperation does it take to ask for 10 cents? What can you even do with that? Buy two little packs of water or maybe a banana or a pack of crackers? Then I thought about what I was wearing. I realized that the earrings that I bought from another artisan company in Haiti had cost $32, which is more than some people who have what are considered decent paying jobs make in a whole week here.

Then I came home, and on Facebook I read a post from a missionary here. She does birthday celebrations for the kids in her after school program, and she was talking about what this one teenage boy wanted to do for his birthday. He requested that all the money that would be spent on doing something for his birthday would instead go towards buying a bike. He was still short some money, so he saved the money his mom gave him to eat at school each day until he finally had enough. He said he had always wanted a bike, ever since he was a little boy, and never thought he would actually be able to get one. And all I could think about was how having a bike as a kid in the US is not considered a luxury, but the norm. And for this kid, getting a bike was an actual dream come true. While these things are not easy to think about or feel, it is vital that I do- both as someone dedicating my time here to improving living conditions through job creation and really just as a fellow human being. And sometimes I simply do not let myself feel these things enough. If I do not let myself feel it, then what am I really doing here? I quickly become disconnected from the mission and go through the motions. This, I am realizing is yet another result of my privilege, and something to continue to be aware of and dismantle.

And now for the big low. For the past week, Haiti has been under political unrest in the form of protests yet again. The main road that runs from north to south has been dangerous to travel on at times because of roadblocks set up by demonstrators. While gonaives has had some protests, it was still safe to go to work all of last week. Next month will mark one year since all of this started when the government announced the end of subsidized gas prices. Soon after, the people started demanding answers for what happened to all of the money lended from Venezuela for development purposes, because it obviously had not been invested into the Haitian infrastructure.

Unfortunately, due to the unknowns and unrest, I had to cancel a trip to go to the DR to visit my friend Emily’s family while they’re on vacation this week. Emily was also supposed to come back to Haiti with me after, which now also has to be canceled. No one is sure what is next, but I am praying hard for peace and needed change to come through justice, for the darkness of lies and corruption to be brought into the light, and for provision and safety for the people here throughout it all. Please join me in lifting up Haiti and her people in prayer!

Some highs: I finished decorating my room! Since I plan to stay in this apartment next year (because I love everything about it) I have made an effort to make it more homey. While decorating pretty much just consisted of buying a few pillows and baskets from 2nd Story Goods and putting some of my favorite photos and mementos on the wall, it has already made me feel so much more at home. I want to put up a few more pieces of Haitian art in the living room and kitchen, build a book case for my room out of pallets, finally hang up my shower curtain and get some chairs for my kitchen table, and then the whole apartment will be done! I really believe in the importance of creating a space to come back to where I can unwind and do some self care no matter where I am, and I think it’s even more important when living in a new environment in a developing country. While the idea of moving to a developing country and trying to live like the locals do sounds like a good idea in theory, for me at least, it is not very practical. There is already so much change and adjustment in a move like this, that it makes sense to try to keep some things the same as they were in your previous home. If I am to bring my best self to work every day, I am going to need to take care of myself. And for me that looks like putting my gas in my generator sometimes so I can have a fan at night and get some quality sleep!

Also exciting update! I have figured out a way to keep my fridge colder for longer. After a tip from beaver that the fridge is actually kept cold only because of the freezer, I tried a little experiment. I bought a big block of ice here on the street and put it in a freezer bag. It froze and unfroze in my freezer for weeks, and kept basically everything cold enough the whole time. Because I’ve had power consistently every other day, this works for me! Every once in a while I’ve had days where I haven’t had power for 2 days in a row, and then it didn’t work so well. But this is very exciting and honestly changes my daily life because I can keep food fresher for longer!

Another high: my friend from work, Jimson, invited me to visit his family’s farm in the country side town of Gros Morne to pick mangoes. The whole day was just amazing. He called me an hour before we were supposed to leave and said his wife had prepared lunch for us to eat before we headed out; since she is pregnant and we weren’t able to get a car for the trip, she wasn’t able to go along. She wished us farewell and we set off on a moto taxi for an hour long ride spattered with a few homes here and there and farmland and amazing views of the mountains. We arrived to the narrow streets of Gros Morne and walked up the stone road to Jimson’s house where his mom greeted us excitedly and his dad walked up in his work clothes pulling his new horse with a rope, mountains and palm trees in the background. It was one of those moments where I wished I could just snap a photo, but I knew 1) I couldn’t in my very first moments of meeting the man 2) it wouldn’t even begin to capture the beauty of the moment. They showed me some plants growing in their backyard and explained that we wouldn’t be able to go to see the farm land because the water in the river was too high. I insisted that I could roll up my pants legs and carry my shoes across; they laughed at my determination and Jimson, his dad, and I set off. We walked to the edge of town and through the tallest palm trees I’ve ever seen (outside of LA, which might not really count), then ventured across the river. We arrived to their land and I saw baby avocados and okra and other crops as we walked towards our official destination: the huge mango trees. We threw rocks at the trees and watched mangoes rain down (really they only fell down with his dad’s precise aim). I ate a mango straight from the tree and made a huge mess, with mango juice all over my face and clothes, while the two guys ate them without getting any juice on themselves whatsoever (classic rookie move, and also classic Liv move). Then they led me further up the hill to see the place where they process sugar cane. From what I understood, they mostly turn it into alcohol there. I got to eat some sugar right off the cane, something I remember doing on my first trip to Haiti because of my dad’s insistance.

Jimson told me about memories he had of playing in the river and how he used to have to make this 20 minute walk most days to get water for their home. I let it sink in that his dad has made the walk to and from to tend to his land almost every single day for the past 30 years. Jimson shared that he’s saving to buy some irrigation equipment for his dad soon. We had to get back to their house before the rain came (it comes almost every day this time of year there, making it fruitful farm land!). Jimson gave me a tour of town, showing me his church and the workshop where he first learned to paint when he was a teenager.

Back story: Jimson stumbled upon the opportunity to learn to paint at a workshop set up by foreigners but run by Haitians in his home town. Kathy met him when he approached her with his paintings while he was a university student in Gonaives. She has watched him earn his degrees, improve in his painting craft, become an entrepreneur with a trade school he helps to direct, become one of our book keepers at 2nd story, and carefully save his money and plan every step of the way. Now he has built his own house, is married and has a baby girl on the way. He talks of how he’s saving to do more things to his home, buy a car, and provide for his family. He is such an awesome example to me of what hard work, gratitude, faith, and dedication can do for someone, even within the difficulties of a developing economy.

After seeing the workshop, he took me to meet his in-laws. They were the kindest couple and showed me places where the earthquake in October had caused damage to their home. Jimson explained that he’s also saving to help them repair it. I could tell how much they adore him and are so ecstatic to have him as a son in law. They sent me off with a bag of homemade cookies and we headed back to Jimson’s house, where his mom had prepared a meal for us and they filled up a huge bag of mangoes for me. The rain started to pour as we were about to leave, so we elected to take a tap tap back to gonaives. This tap tap was uncovered (so literally just an old pickup truck) so Jimson suggested I pay extra to sit in the front. The people in the back covered themselves with a tarp, another girl squeezed in the front with me and my huge bag of mangoes, and we took off, the driver constantly having to tell me to move my leg so he could access the clutch. As we drove through the mountains, the rain flooded the dirt roads so much that it just looked like we were floating most of the way back. After we had gotten through the worst of it, we pulled over and I didn’t know why everyone was looking behind us. Then everyone in the car oohed and ahhed as we saw a huge stream of water rush down the mountain behind us, and it looked like a flood gate had just been opened. I looked to the left and saw a huge rainbow over a distant mountain. I remember to gonaives and passed out mangoes to some kind neighbors to lighten my load on the way home, feeling filled to the brim by the dreamy day I had just had.

Another high: our hiking club has transformed to also including biking. We have gone on a few bike rides over the past few weeks and have had so much fun. This past weekend, we rode to the prettiest swimming hole with pristine water and swam and had a little picnic. When I got back to gonaives, I decided it was time to stop using a borrowed one with a very uncomfortable seat and difficult-to-change-gears and bought my own; I got a beautiful blue bike for less than $45 US and am really excited about it!

Yet another high: I got approved for my Haitian visa! This will enable me to legally stay in Haiti for more than 3 months at a time. Though I had to take 3 trips to port au prince to make it happen and even had to bring our HR manager with me the last time, I finally got approved! Because of the protests, I haven’t yet been able to make it back to port au prince to pick it up. But it will be a happy day when I do!

Work itself has had lows and highs. Lower sales numbers than we need to see but high excitement for a new cotton project we’re developing, new clothes to be released soon, and a previous designer visiting Haiti to train our artisans on new jewelry designs. Even when things feel difficult and unchanging at work (mostly with sales numbers, which hello! Is my job now!) I take a step back and see that everything is truly moving in the right direction, and that gives me encouragement.

Highs and lows. That is life here and everywhere. It is raw. I am learning to even be thankful for the ups and downs of it all. For the ways they force me to feel both the good and the bad and the ways they help me to know the heart of God more. The lows drag me down to my knees in prayer and the highs lead me to stretch my hands towards heaven in praise. We can’t have the highs without the lows. It is the rhythm of life, these mountains and valleys. And yet, somehow, even though it still seems to take me by surprise every time, the lord’s faithfulness does not waver despite them.

another high: trying my “hands” at pottery on our new wheel at work!

another high: visiting Marmalad, a magical garden/forest north of Gonaives with these precious ones

the bamboo forest at Marmalad! they make furniture out of it too! I bought 2 bamboo plants and a lemon tree for $1 each!!

cannot get any of the photos taken this way to rotate! But here is jimson’s dad and his horse!

Jimson leading me through the narrow streets!

The big mango tree!

My forever photographers and friends! In and out of work!

Impromptu photo shoot when the power went out on our movie day. My beloved home and some pretty baskets from the market on the wall!


Home, Not Alone

It’s June! And I’m not yet melting from the heat in Haiti. Honestly I’m surprised I haven’t struggled with the heat so much..maybe I have adjusted? Or (more realistically) maybe it’s because I choose to sit in the coolest room in the building at work? Or because I’ve been able to figure out a system to have at least a battery powered fan at night? Or maybe it’s just because we aren’t in the middle of summer yet? Stay tuned to see how I survive the real summer heat.

These first few weeks back in Haiti have had ups and downs, but I’m also noticing how comfortable I’m beginning to become here and how normal life feels for me here now.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Callie, one of my best friends from college, came back to Haiti with me from the US. We had so much fun while she was here and both agreed the trip was too short (it was only 4.5 days!) Being her first international trip, I was unsure of what she would think of Haiti, but she ended up loving it! It was a such a joy showing someone I love something I love, and them learning to love it as well. We flew in on Saturday and went straight to the beach to stay overnight. We soaked up all the sun, food, and AC we could. I knew that Callie was going to be fine for the rest of the trip here when she chose to have a cold shower at the hotel instead of a hot one.

The next day, we got to Gonaives and my house was covered in dust from me being absent for 2 weeks. We walked to have dinner at the local Americans’ favorite restaurant that we have deemed “Narnia” because it feels like a lush, beautiful escape from the city.

Monday, Callie came to work with me and I introduced her to all my coworkers, showed her what I do, she helped me with some marketing stuff, and she did one of our “Make and Take” sessions. In these sessions, visitors get to sit with our artisans while they create their own one-of-a-kind piece of art. Callie worked with Phillipe to make a beautiful shirt! That evening, we had dinner with Kathy and I was so happy to have two people who are so close to me spend time together.

Tuesday morning, we woke up early to hike the mountain in town. Once we started, we made a last minute decision to stay in a lower spot that had a beautiful view instead of going to the top. We sat in silence for 10 minutes and as we sat there, I had an epiphany of sorts. Since studying abroad in the French Riviera and realized that it’s possible, I have always said that I wanted to live in a place that had both the beach and mountains. For some reason, I thought that was something that probably wouldn’t happen ever, and if it did happen, it would be later in life. While sitting in that spot on the mountain, I looked to my right and saw the sea stretch out into the distance, and to my left, I saw tons and tons of mountains. In that moment, I realized that I am actually living that dream right now, alongside my dream job. It was one of those reminders of God’s faithfulness and his promise to fulfill every desire of our hearts; it was a really sweet moment, and I plan to make that little spot on the mountain a place that I visit more often to remind me of that truth.

We spent the rest of the day shopping in the market and playing with kids at the pool. That evening, we set up the projector to watch a movie, one of my favorite things to do here! The next morning, we headed to Port au Prince early to spend the day running errands before dropping Callie off. After stopping at a coffee shop, (such a luxury I don’t take for granted when I get to do!) I went to the immigration office for the second time to try to obtain my visa. I was turned away again, and told I was missing yet another document that wasn’t on the list I was given and to come back with the person who wrote my letter of employment. I was so frustrated, but I was warned by many to expect these kind of delays in obtaining it. After, we went to our 2nd Story Goods store that is located in the Marriott Hotel. This was the first time I got to spend more than 5 minutes there (in the past, I have just been there for dropping off product). I got to meet one of the employees who I haven’t met yet and talk about ideas for increasing our sales there. As I’ve mentioned before, our in-country sales have decreased dramatically over the past year due to the political unrest here that has resulted in less tourism. I was thankful to finally get to spend some time in the store, and so many ideas came flooding in by being there in person. After that, Callie and I got to go on a wholesale shopping spree for 2nd Story Goods at Papillon, one of the biggest artisan companies in Haiti. We did a trade with them so they could have more of our product and we could have more of theirs to sell. We got to pick out all the product, and then eat cheeseburgers at their cafe for lunch! After, Callie helped me get groceries at the grocery store. Since I typically can only get things like meat, cheese, and lettuce at the grocery store in Port au Prince, it is always an exciting event for me. I am counting down the days until Much finishes the building and we have a full-sized grocery store in Gonaives! It will be one happy day!

So, Callie got to see pretty much every aspect of my life within a very short amount of time. We were both so sad that she had to leave, and I can’t wait until she can visit again! A few days later, Kathy left once again for the U.S., and though it was just for a week this time, the sadness and loneliness from my close friend Laura leaving for sabbatical and Kathy coming back and forth every other month this year sunk in. Though I enjoyed having a weekend by myself to eat all of my Port au Prince food and rest from my fast-paced month, the sudden difference in being with so many people to being suddenly alone was a difficult adjustment. A few days later, two of my closest friends who I work with told me that they are considering moving to Port au Prince because there is more opportunity for them there. It was shocking and heart-breaking for many reasons, and though it’s just a consideration and not happening for sure, the news hit me pretty hard. Obviously I love them and personally just want them here selfishly for that reason. That alone is hard enough, but the thought also breaks my heart because it is a yet another demonstration of the centralization of Port au Prince. It’s estimated that Port au Prince has over 6 million people, while the second biggest city, Cap Haitien has 600,000, meaning it is just a tenth of a size. This is a huge reason we are building a grocery store in Gonaives, in an effort to bring economic development and opportunity outside of the capital city. And I can’t blame these friends for considering it, when they think about the one life they have and wanting to start saving to be able to provide for their families; I think if I were in their shoes, chances are I would do the same thing.

In the mean time, I am soaking up all the time I can with them (and possibly making too many passive aggressive comments about them leaving me and continuous arguments of why they should stay) just in case they do move. Coming back from the US here shows me that one of the biggest differences in my life here and there is my social life. I spend far more time alone here, especially since my roommate hasn’t been in the apartment since January. I have learned to appreciate my alone time, but when I see friends from home together, I would give anything to be there. Especially as I am in the process of learning the language and culture, I  feel somewhat lack of social connection with those around me who don’t speak English. This motivates me even more to work hard on improving my Creole, so I can lessen that gap. I’m looking at this next season ahead, knowing that it may be more lonely at times, but also making an effort to step more fully into the truth that I’m never really alone, because the Lord goes with me wherever I go. I hope that no matter what is in the future for my social life, I can hold onto that truth.

Soaking up the sun and the food at the resort!

“Learning from the master” as Callie said!

Obviously Jude had to do a photo shoot for us, one of my fave activities!

Callie wearing the shirt she made while market shopping

A very successful visit to Papillon!


I am now back in Haiti after a FULL 2 weeks in the US with a FULL range of emotions. Since my last trip to the US was unexpectedly long, this one felt like it went by very quickly; I was running around a lot trying to make sure I got to see as many friends and family members as I could. My time at home was sweet and refreshing, though exhausting at the same time. Adjusting back to my fast pace in the US really took some energy out of me! But while there I made sure that I took lots of hot showers, sat in lots of AC, and ate lots of Mexican food!

Both times that I’ve been home so far, I’ve been forced to stop and reflect on how I am really doing, what I’ve learned, and in what ways I’ve grown so far in Haiti. Both times it has been a really good opportunity for me to take a step back and process, especially because I am a verbal processor and catching up with people means answering questions about my life. When I went home in December, I was elated about the way my first few months went. In every way it was better than I could have ever dreamed or imagined. Everything was new and exciting, and yet I knew a day would come when things would get harder, because well, that’s life, especially in a developing country. I was right about that, because the past 3 months have been more difficult. Though I have loved getting into the rhythm of a routine, with that comes monotony; this is something I haven’t had a lot of until now. In college, there was always a new semester, a new trip, or a new internship just around the corner; now, I am getting used to the adult life of settling into a job and a home and as each day passes, the excitement of something new wears off a little more.  Though I have loved the challenge of living a simpler life, with that comes, well, a challenge (I.E. less things to distract me or to fill my time and space.) Though I have loved living in Haiti, with that comes the many adjustments- no constant refrigeration, no AC, new language and culture, and many other things. Being home this time made me realize that this time has been more difficult than I have let myself admit. There was a mix of emotions as I felt like I wanted more time at home with the people I love, yet I missed what now feels like home in Haiti.

Recently, it has been pointed out to me several times that I have been really committed to staying in touch with my people in the U.S and that it is rare, being both post-grad and now an ex-pat. I think that might be what makes this whole thing a little harder, while also making it a lot easier. When I go home, I have a lot of people there. I get to do a lot of catching up, I get filled up with needed conversations, and I get cared for and loved on. When I’m back in Haiti, I talk to some people regularly enough that they get a basis for what’s going on in my life and I get the same from them. With that comes not always being as present as I could be here. And with all of this also comes the missing people and important events. I’ve already missed my Young Life girls’ graduation, am going to miss a friend’s wedding this summer, and miss several events, birthdays, and holidays that I wish I could be there for.

I think this is going to be a balancing act for the remainder of my time in Haiti, however long that ends up being. Still, I am thankful I have a job that I can do remotely for periods of time, and that a flight to the U.S. is not too far or expensive so that I can continue the balancing, the holding of my two worlds, each so different yet so precious to me.

The group facilitation training, Zenergy, that I went to in North Carolina was so great. It was a small group and everything was about experiential learning and getting lots of positive and constructive feedback. I learned a ton about ways to integrate the whole person into group discussions, the power of collective intelligence, and about my own strengths and weaknesses. Collective intelligence involves listening  intently to those you are working with, paying attention to your surroundings, and letting those things lead you to your answers together. I have already integrated the experience into my work at 2nd Story Goods and am thinking a lot about how to spread it throughout the company. I am really looking forward to when Liam, the friend who gave me the scholarship to attend the training and one of Zenergy’s coaches as well as the founder of its sister organizational culture company (the Zone), comes to Haiti in the fall to work with us. I think it will be a game-changer for our organization and I am so excited to have some background to what the work will be about so I can help implement it and keep it going when he leaves.

On the next blog, I will share more about my two precious worlds colliding when my friend Callie came back to Haiti with me and about my transition back here. But for now, I have a ton of work to do now that I am finally back at my desk all day long and I’m honestly pretty excited about it. I guess that’s how you know you’re in the right job 🙂

Was thankful to be home both to celebrate my dad’s birthday and mother’s day!

The first day of the Zenergy training! Whole person facilitation and collective intelligence include using art and nature and other unique things to create an environment in which people thrive.

The lake at the mountain resort where the facilitation group training took place. It was so wonderful to get some time in nature in between and even during sessions!

Seeing my dogs is always one of the best parts of coming home

Split the remainder of my time in the US between Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Nashville. Every time I go back to Nashville, it seems that so much has changed!

An overview of what the Zenergy course included throughout the week. Since it was experiential learning, we all took turns leading different sessions, which was both fun and challenging!

Back in Haiti! And I bought myself some flowers to celebrate 🙂