Lucy Close is full of pride as she talks about bringing handmade market bags, pillows, baby garments and other items to the Southern Spring Home & Garden Show for the first time.
Each piece is decorated with simple, cheerful images stitched by women in Haiti. The jobs are a lifeline for the crafters, Close said.
These women live in one of the most populated and impoverished countries in the western hemisphere. Close travels to shows about once a month to sell the inventory that she helped design.
“They physically look better,” Close said of the women who have found work through nonprofit 1000 Jobs Haiti. “Their cheeks are plumper. Their eyes are brighter.”
The Charlotte native started the organization in 2008, with husband LeRoy “Buck” Close, an episcopal minister from Fort Mill. They now live in Rhode Island.
The organization provides work for more than 100 women who earn about $8 for five hours. That compares to a minimum wage of about $5 for an eight-hour day, according to the Closes.
Crafters labor in spaces without electricity or running water, as elsewhere in Haiti. Three years ago a catastrophic 7.0-magnitude earthquake crippled the country’s government and its capital, Port-au-Prince.
More than 200,000 people died as a result of the quake. Jobs became even scarcer. Lack of housing is a persistent problem.
Ultimately, Close would like to put even more women to work to fight poverty in Haiti. The average price of the co-op’s handmade goods is $15, so Close expects expansion to come slowly.
“We’re trying to strike a balance between paying a fair wage and employing as many people as we can,” Close said.