What gifts should I bring with me to Haiti?

Disclaimer: We’ve talked about gift giving on the HaitiHub blog before because it’s a wonderfully generous impulse that can have unintended (read: negative) consequences.  Unfortunately, with gifts there is a lot more to navigate in Haiti than a simple “Here ya go, I hope you like it!” So, before you load down your suitcases, please take the time to check with the organization you’re traveling with!  They may have very specific rules about what can / cannot be brought, when gifts can be given, how they can be given, and who you may give them to (They’ll also be able to explain their specific reasoning behind their decisions.)

For more from us on this matter, check out: The Santa Claus Complex

If you’re wondering about how to navigate being the recipient of gifts in Haiti, check out: Vin manje avèk nou: An invitation to enjoy the best of Haiti


 

Really, the stuff up above is super important for your relationships in Haiti!  If you haven’t taken a moment to look it over, please do. 🙂

But, once you’ve gotten the okay, what do you bring?  This week’s blog post was prompted by a series of questions we recently received from a HaitiHub student regarding gifts in Haiti.  With some help from Betty Turnbull (1/2 of the Creole Made Easy dynamic duo!) we were able to get her an answer.

Our friend, Sylvia, will be traveling in February to meet two of the girls she sponsors in Haiti, along with their families. (Read her full story here!)  She wanted to bring a few modest gifts for the girls, and some practically useful gifts for their families.  Some of the questions she posed were:

-Do Haitian girls have pierced ears, generally? I’m thinking to bring some earrings for the two girls I’m visiting.
-What would be a really special gift for two girls, ages 8 and 14?
-Some ideas for their moms: flat bed sheets, kitchen towels and washcloths, wooden and metal spoons and a few other utensils, paring knives, large tablecloths. Is there anything else that would be really useful? Something hard to come by or too expensive in Haiti, but helpful to have?
We love Sylvia’s mindset when hunting down gift items, and even more so, we love that these gifts are going to people with whom she’s already begun building a relationship.  As we pondered over her questions, Betty Turnbull stepped in with some fantastic information (Mèsi Betty!):

“Haitian girls usually get their ears pierced at birth, so yes, it is probably safe to assume the young girls have pierced ears. They would very much love earrings. They might also enjoy a pretty necklace (they love colors) and some nice ribbons for their hair.

The gifts for the moms sound great. Something that is very hard for them to find and afford is flatware. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but a set of stainless flatware from Target or Walmart would be something very special to them.
Another fun gift that is useful is flashlights, particularly the kind that you charge by shaking or winding up that don’t take batteries.”
What about our readers?  Are there other items that you have found to be a particular blessing for your partners in Haiti?  What about gifts you’ve received from friends in Haiti?  What makes these exchanges memorable for you?
Of course, we believe that some of the best gifts come by way of time spent in community, and the best way to do that is to invest in the language!  If you’re preparing for a trip to Haiti, one of the most meaningful things you can do is learn Creole.  We’re here to help.
Vin mete nou ansanm!  Pa rete la!  
You can share your thoughts or comments below!
Yon gwò mèsi, Sylvia, pou kesyon ou!  Thanks for your questions Sylvia, and for the great work you’re doing to build relationships with the families you sponsor in Haiti! Keep up the great Creole work too!
Written by: Erin Nguyen on January 21, 2016

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “What gifts should I bring with me to Haiti?

  1. I have made several trips now since 2011, usually 2x’s a year, my last being a month in November. First work at a hospital in PAP, then visit an orphanage that I’ve helped at each time , and then exploring new areas. I try to buy as much in country as I bring in. For the friends I have made, they appreciate costume jewelry, pretty scarves, headbands,fun socks, any kind of lotions or bath gels, chapsticks and lip gloss, packages of fun and mints, packets of powdered flavoring for water. For the older girls at the orphanage, I always take them out to the grocery at least once so they can get hair things, and other personal hygiene products. The younger children love school supplies, crayons , chalk, underwear . Hope this helps.

  2. Mwen dako! I agree – if you’re doing something special for kids you work with, taking them out to a store or market is a great way to support local economies and also give kids the power back to choose what they want for themselves. Great idea Donna and Paula.

  3. I would love to take my foster daughter to a store when we go in March, unfortunately the orphanage my church sponsors is in a very remote area. Any more suggestions of things I can bring would be very appreciated!

    1. Bonswa Barb! Thanks so much for commenting. In addition to the comments section here on the HaitiHub blog, some really great conversations about this blog post have been happening on the HaitiHub Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/HaitiHub If you use Facebook, you can check it out for lots more great suggestions. Hope to see you over there in addition to here on the blog! Thank you for your good involvement in Haiti.

  4. So many women who sew these pillow case dresses with little spaghetti straps on the shoulder area. They send them to every third world country including Haiti. The dresses I see young Haitian girls wear has a lot more material and beauty than the pillowcase dresses. What are your thoughts?

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