When art replaces charity: What does “doing aid work right” look like?

Haiti: “The NGO Capital of the World”

It seems like the island once known as The Pearl of the Antilles deserves better.  With new organizations popping up over night and others disappearing with the daylight, NGO culture in Haiti can often leave many feeling lost in a sea of goodwill that didn’t quite pan out.

While it is easy to approach Haiti’s NGO culture with a heavy dose of skepticism, there is so much to celebrate when an idea, a mission, and a community come together to create a thing of beauty.

Without further ado, we would like to introduce to you: Port au Prince’s Papillon Boutique

Photo Courtesy of the Apparent Project

The Papillon Boutique is the showcase store for the Apparent Project, an organization that combines the creativity and vibrance of Haiti’s artisan scene with the consumer purchasing power that keeps Haiti’s talented artists employed, using their talents and passion to support their families and work towards a brighter future. (Employed artists mean more income, more income means better opportunities for education, and a higher probability of keeping families together by reducing the number of children surrendered to orphanages.)

If you’re going to be in Port au Prince, this is not a shop you will want to miss!  You can even Schedule a Tour for your group simply by calling ahead!

So, what is it that makes this store unique?  The HaitiHub team made their first visit in March, 2015 to learn more about their mission and work.

Photo by Corrigan & Shelley Clay Photo Courtesy of The Apparent Project
Photo by Corrigan & Shelley Clay
Photo Courtesy of The Apparent Project

Socially Responsible Employment Practices 

The main mission of Papillon is to create jobs so that families can stay together.  Their model is built entirely around this driving vision.

Since it began in 2010, the Apparent Project has grown from 4 women to over 300 people on its payroll, but this job isn’t just a paycheck, it’s an opportunity to advance.

Papillon provides free on-site daycare for children 0-3 years old for all of its employees. Access to this kind of care opens the door for parents of all ages to work and support their families without worrying about the care and safety of their youngest members during the day.

Employees are also offered the option of Computer training and English Language training with Rosetta Stone.  This kind of professional development equips members with necessary skills that open doors to further opportunity.

The Artisans’ Guild

The Artisans’ Guild at Papillon Boutique puts the necessary tools and materials in the hands of artists so that they can create their one-of-a-kind works.  From beadmaking to papermaking, metal working, textile, glass slumping, and ceramic studios, the artisan’s guild has everything needed to continue Papillon’s tradition of offering high quality hand-crafted products available throughout the store.

You can even visit the artisans’ guild on a group tour! Just let them know ahead of time and they’ll show you where they make everything listed above – with advance notice, you might even get to try your hand at rolling one of their popular cereal box beads!

Photo Courtesy of The Apparent Project


Photo Courtesy of the Apparent Project
Photo Courtesy of the Apparent Project

EVERY purchase (no matter if it’s at the Papillon Boutique in Port au Prince, Online, or at Macy’s) helps support the artisans responsible for each piece’s creation.

In addition to their operation in Port au Prince, the Apparent Project ships merchandise all over the world; they exported $1.5 million worth of product last year!

Even with operations growing, the Apparent Project remains a grass roots effort committed to the well being of its employees and largely dependent on word of mouth to spread the word about their talented artists.

Jewelry Parties and group fundraising options are a way that you can get involved in the work that they’re doing and help support local artisans as well.  Each piece comes with a tag with the artist’s name, it’s a reminder that above all, this business is about people, families, and community.

Your support means more families staying together, more kids going to school, and a way out of poverty for many creative, talented, and hard-working Haitian families.

Best of all?  This isn’t charity – it’s a decision to stand behind the high quality work of a talented group of artists producing pieces emblematic of their own personal vision and inspired by the rich imagery of Haitian culture.

This is the very best of all parties involved.

by Erin Nguyen on March 12, 2015

3 thoughts on “When art replaces charity: What does “doing aid work right” look like?

  1. I have been familiar with ApParent for several years now. I can’t remember if you are teaching workers to make original printed fabrics….
    Also, do you have any workers who are learning the business side of things? Is anyone learning to contact people in other countries to sell your wares, meeting perspective buyers from large companies, like Macy’s (who I know sells some items), etc.? I am thinking of this in the event that there is no one except a Haitian person(s) to continue your work.
    Thank you and God bless.

    1. Bonswa Jane! Thank you for taking the time to comment on our post. These are great questions, but we are not in a position to give you any complete answers. While we at HaitiHub applaud The Apparent Project’s work and efforts, we are not a joint organization. We hope you’ll check out their website at http://www.apparentproject.org to learn more, and get in touch! Mèsi anpil Jane – kenbe la!

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