Haiti Quake Survivors Make, Sell Jewelry Line

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- It's been nearly two years since Haiti's massive earthquake, and nearly 600,000 people are still living in tents.

The country's unemployment rate stands at a whopping 40 percent. However, CBN News found on a recent visit to Haiti, a unique undertaking that's providing jobs and hope to some of the people.

The Kado Boutique

The word "kado" is Creole for gift shop, and some think that is the perfect name for a Operation Blessing International project in Haiti.

It's a jewelry boutique and every piece is made by Haitian women.

Naomi Darg heads the project for the Virginia Beach, Va.-based aid organization.

"I studied art in university and to be able to use that to help change people's lives here is very rewarding and really good for the people that I am working with as well. It is a creative outlet for them and a lot removed from what they are used to," she explained.

It takes creativity to make the jewelry. The women begin by making colorful beads out of old cereal and granola bar boxes.

"First of all, you eat whatever is in the cardboard box. After that, we flatten it out, rule it up with a ruler and make triangles. I had to teach the ladies how to use rulers," Darg said.

"And then they cut all the triangles out, put them on a metal skewer and roll them up and glue them. Then they lacquer them and leave them to dry. And the next day they make them into gorgeous necklaces," she added.

The jewelry is becoming very popular with women -- even outside Haiti. It's now available in boutiques in Virginia, the Washington, D.C. area, Australia and online.

"For now, I'm just working on friends and family in different parts of the world to sell them," Darg told CBN News.

Rosilia's Jewelry

Each piece of jewelry sold at the Kado Boutique comes with a signature tag that gives the buyer some information about its creator. One necklace CBN News picked up was created by Rosilia, a single mother of six, whose husband left her. Her home was destroyed by the earthquake.

"Before making jewelry, I would make food to sell on the street. But often times my children would eat it because I did not have enough money to buy them food. So they would eat the food I was trying to sell," Rosilia said.

Making jewelry is more than a job for Rosilia. Earlier this year, she lost her spot in a tent city of more than 700 families so organizers could clear the way to build homes.

"It was a lottery where they would get to choose who got those homes, and unfortunately, Rosilia wasn't one of the winners of the lottery," explained David Darg, the director of international disaster relief and special projects for Operation Blessing International.

"She was told you are going to have to find somewhere to live fast because we are kicking you out," he said. "So, she was facing an impossible challenge."

Rosilia's jewelry is helping her meet the challenge. She used her earnings from working at the boutique to buy a piece of property and started building a home for herself, her four boys and two girls.

"Now she has hope for the future. She has a place that she can call her own, her children can call home. And slowly but surely through the project she is going to be able to earn enough money to build her house, to provide plumbing and all the things that you need to live a normal life," Darg told CBN News.

It's a life transformation that begins with a simple, cardboard box.

"It's really incredible to think that these materials that most people consider trash have been recycled to become something very beautiful," Darg said.

Find out how you can help Operation Blessing International help people change their lives here at home and around the world.

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Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist, who comes to CBN News from the ABC owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio.  He received his master's degree from the Columbia University Journalism School. He also holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  Follow Efrem on Twitter @EfremGraham and "like" him at Facebook.com/EfremGrahamCBN.