Friday, December 14, 2012

interview/giveaway {CLOSED}: Haitian Bead Project!

 Photo courtesy of Dorina Lazo Gilmore
     Today I am so pleased and thrilled to feature Dorina Lazo Gilmore (above, in the light blue tank top, front row) and the Haitian Bead Project! I knew Dorina "way back when" - when we both worked at a newspaper, she as a features reporter and I as a news copy editor; before she married her husband, Ericlee, and became mama to three beautiful little girls; before she became a children's picture book writer and shared her love of writing and books with the world. 
     To thank my readers, and to support this worthy project, I have purchased three jewelry items that I will be giving away to three winners!! Details are on the bottom ... but I hope you will read this post in its entirety. :)
Photo by Lisa Schmidt
1. Can you tell us a little about how the Haitian Bead Project began?
The Haitian Bead Project was birthed in summer 2011. The Haitian Director of our nonprofit organization, Peter Constantin, connected with a woman named Shelley Clay who started the ApParent Project in Port Au Prince. It turned out she and I also happened to be connected through a mutual college friend. She generously offered to train a few of the women from our ministry in making beads from recycled cardboard. She got them started and then they brought their skills to the northern mountains of Haiti to their hometown of Pignon. That same summer I was living in Pignon and began working with the women to show them how to make their beads into jewelry. Together we began to develop a small business so we could sell their products in the U.S. The vision was to start something that could help lift the women from their state of poverty.

2. What is your role with the Haitian Bead Project?
My role is to direct the project, providing training for the Haitian artisans and overseeing the U.S. business side of The Haitian Bead Project. I live in Haiti during the summer and provide encouragement to the leadership and training for the artisan groups while I am there. I have a personal relationship with each of our 57 artisans. My goal is to encourage their creativity, foster community among the group and build the business as a cooperative so the artisans can provide for themselves and their families. Throughout the rest of the year I am based in Fresno, California. My job then is to market and sell the jewelry in the U.S. as well as organize the extensive team of volunteers we have helping with the behind-the-scenes of the project. 

Photo courtesy of Anjie England
3.  How are the beads made? What products are available?
The beads are made by cutting recycled cardboard (like cereal and snack boxes) into long, triangular strips and then wrapping them around skewers to form a bead shape. Each bead is then glued and varnished to seal it, then dried in the sun. After the beads dry, they are formed into our jewelry and other products. Currently, we make a diversity of styles of necklaces, bracelets, earrings, lanyards, keychains, ornaments and eyeglass leashes.

4. I notice that you often talk about "a hand up vs. a handout." Can you explain?
Haiti has experienced some horrible natural disasters and much political strife in its history. More than 80 percent of the country is unemployed and living in poverty. Many groups have rushed into the country offering aid and handouts. This “relief,” of course, was needed immediately following the natural disasters but needs a more strategic plan for the long-term. The goal of our nonprofit organization, Christian Friendship Ministries, is to transform lives in Haiti. That means not just giving handouts and then creating an unhealthy sense of dependency on outside aid. We want to help Haitians develop useful and marketable skills that can offer them that “hand up” from a place of poverty. This approach looks at the whole person (spiritual, physical and emotional) and encourages a sense of dignity and responsibility as they work together to move on from a place of shame and poverty.

5. Can you tell us about the artisans who make the beads? How does participating in the project benefit individuals and the community?
After working with the women (and three men) for more than a year and a half now, I am beginning to see how this project is truly transforming lives. Women who once had to beg for food and money are now able to feed their children, send them to school, help their neighbors and give to their church. One of my good friends, Moise, has even saved enough money to start building a house for her little family. What pride and joy she had in showing me the construction of her little place. (Read more about Dorina's visit to Moise's home here.) The benefits are not only monetary. I see that these women are gaining confidence in their skills and themselves. They are cultivating their creativity. They are growing as individuals and gaining that sense of human dignity, which is even more vital than food and resources.
 Photo by Lisa Schmidt

6. How has your work in Haiti changed you? Your family? Your work as a writer?
My whole life purpose has changed as a result of serving in Haiti. I once dreamed of being a writer, publishing books and raising kids. Those are great dreams but they were all more focused on me and my own ambition. Now that I am involved in The Haitian Bead Project I have realized a greater dream that moves beyond myself into helping other women and families. I have a strong faith in God and I believe Haiti has changed me because it has helped me realize His will for my life and my need for Him each day. In my heart I will always be a storyteller. As I work with the artisans and volunteers in Haiti and the U.S. I am gathering stories and finding opportunities to share those stories. My kids are very much a part of the project as well. We take them to Haiti with us and they consider it home.

7. Speaking of writing - is a picture book on Haiti in the works? ;)
I have three children’s picture book manuscripts set in Haiti. I hope I can one day find publishers for them but I have to be patient because most of my energy goes into the business and raising my three girls.

8. And since this is a style blog ... You've always been stylish. How do you describe your style?
I have always been attracted to unique, colorful and handmade. I love clothes and jewelry that have a story, that speak of another culture or people or landscape. I’m currently addicted to gray and turquoise. Unless I’m running or working out, it’s rare to see me without my Haitian beads; I feel naked without them. ;)

9. Want to buy your own set of beads? (Hint: they are a great gift for those hard-to-shop-for folks on your holiday gift list!)
Visit's "Contact Us" page for details. 

Thank you, Dorina!  

And here are the three jewelry items up for grabs in the giveaway!

#1: bracelet with tones of olive, green and dark sparkle. This would be a great addition to your stack of bracelets.

 #2: bracelet with shades of orange, blue and cream. Perfect for brightening up any dreary winter day!

#3: This 25-inch necklace can be worn long or looped twice around your neck. The fire-red and black beads will spark compliments everywhere you go.

  • Submit the Google form below to enter.
  • Giveaway ends Fri., Dec. 21.
  • Luck of the draw will determine which jewelry item you win!
  • One entry per person.
  • U.S. readers only (sorry, international folks!)
  • Winners will be randomly selected.


  1. What a cool, cool organization. I love the points that were touched on in #4, Haiti has such a history of getting the handouts with the money, but so much gets squandered by the government It's really awesome to see groups like this that help women build their own companies and develop their own skills, it has far more of an impact that just throwing money at the country does. (I would enter, but I don't have a pintrest, but I love this group, what a cool and wonderful organization!)

  2. Thanks, Katie! I made the Pinterest pin optional, so please enter if you like. :)

  3. Great post, Carrie. Wonderfully written and I appreciate that you've chosen such a great organization to feature. Thank you also for letting me know about the give away; I'm entered now!



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