What's in a Basket?
It seems to be a simply question, but is it really? Are we talking about the contents of a basket? Are we talking about the basket itself? In this case we are talking about both. First let's consider the basket itself.
Some of the poorest people on earth sit under a mango tree and use the natural materials available to them to make something beautiful. The could use reeds, grasses, or fiber extracted from a local plant. The folks we are focusing on have developed highly honed skills using the fiber they call "pete." It is a fiber stripped from a type of cactus (agave sisalana). A large plant, it grows taller than six feet and each mature leaf can reach a meter or more in length. Using a dull knife blade embedded in a piece of wood, or a blade with a wooden handle on each end, they scrape the surface of the leaf to remove pulpy green material and expose the fibers that run the full lenght of the leaf. Here is a short video showing this process. Click to play:
When all the pulp is scraped away, the farmers dry the creamy white fibers in the hot Haitian sun and bundle them for sale to artisans or rope makers. After purchasing the dry fiber, the artisans begin to work their magic.
They work in faith believing that someone will see value in their labor. It may take as little as an hour or so to make a Christmas star or several days to finish a larger basket. The work begins with dying the fiber in a hot, boiling vat of dye. Some of you may remember how your mother or grandmother dyed fabric using Ritz Dye. The process is much the same. The freshly dyed fiber is then re-dried in the sun and combed out to yield usable fiber.
With skills passed from worker to worker and generation to generation, they use the fiber to form twisted fiber bundles that are woven into the patterns of a basket. The results can be simple and utilitarian or spectacularly creative. Here are a couple of examples:
Amazingly, all this work is done without any ready outlet for their goods. But they continue in hope. They hope to connect with someone in a local market, some tourist visiting Haiti, or someone browsing the Internet for a unique gift. That is where CPCS comes in. This Haitian cooperative is working hard to bring these crafts to a larger market. That is why this website exists. By clicking on the "Online Store" link in the Main Menu, or by clicking on one of the basket images above, you can enter the store and shop for these lovely handmade sisal items.
The baskets represent hope. These artisans work long and hard hoping to sell their wares so they can feed and educate their children. In a country with nearly 50% unemployment, they have chosen not to sit and do nothing. They have chosen to learn skills, apply those skills, and do their part to earn a living. They have banded together with farmers, bulk sisal merchants, and many others involved in the production of sisal to help find and create markets for the benefit of themselves, their children and others in the cooperative.
What's in a basket? Now let's consider the basket contents. Of course, once a basket is sold, the artisan has nothing more to do with it, but they hope the buyers will proudly use the basket to display fruits and vegetables, or fill it with gifts, or set a lovely plant in it. And they hope that each time the owner of the basket sees it with its contents, they will see a reminder of the contribution they made to help those who are helping themselves. The aritsans hope the owners will talk to others as they offer them an apple or bannana, and tell them about the people of Haiti who are working hard to help themselves. The trade of these baskets can have powerful consequences. Wouldn't you like to buy a powerful basket?
Meet Our President
On any given Sunday, Esau Jean Pierre can be found at Siloé Baptist Church in Grand Goâve, Haiti. He may be leading the praise and worship portion of the service, encouraging the young members, singing with the men’s ensemble, or just sitting with the congregation and worshipping the Lord. He is a strong Christian believer whose faith has sustained him through difficult times.
Soon to be married, Esau is a trained mechanic who has a heart for serving others. After the 2010 earthquake, Esau, along with many other Haitian and international volunteers worked with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) and American Baptists to rebuild Siloé Baptist School. The school for more than 300 students was completely destroyed by the earthquake. Today it is a beautiful, bustling campus with earthquake resistant buildings. Esau’s primary role in that project was guardian and mechanic.
During the rebuilding of the school, Esau met Pastor Tim Brendle of West End Baptist Church, Petersburg, VA, who went to Haiti as Disaster Relief Field Coordinator for CBF. After his six months in Haiti, Pastor Tim returned to Virginia but continued to seek a way to create jobs in Haiti through sustainable commerce. Esau shared this vision and stayed in touch with Pastor Tim and after years of research, the two started taking steps to create a sisal cooperative in Haiti.
Esau’s leadership has been extremely valuable in the formation of the cooperative. He has spent countless hours on the phone talking with notable individuals who have grown sisal in the past and are highly motivated to revive the industry. Over and over Esau has explained the concepts of a sisal cooperative and has worked effectively with the Conseil National des Cooperatives (CNC) in Port-au-Prince to obtain legal status for the cooperative.
Esau has had a lot to learn as he has led this movement. He strongly believes that the CPCS exists in Haiti today because God has been at work to make this a reality. As the market moves forward, there will be much more to learn, but Esau’s hard work and integrity have laid a foundation for the cooperative and will continue to foster its development in the future.
CPCS Opens Online Store
Haitian artisans who work with sisal to create a variety of handcrafts are an important group of members in the CPCS Haiti family. Using, raw sisal fiber, locally available dyes and a variety of other materials, these artists create beautiful baskets, jewelry, Christmas ornaments, cell phone carriers and table decorations.
We are pleased to announce that their products are now available to anyone through our online store. This is more than just a “fair market” business. Every cent paid for these products returns to the artists and the
communities served by the cooperative. Here is how it works.
CPCS (Cooperative de Production et de Commercialisation de Sisal) purchases items from the artists, paying them a fair local price. The cooperative then has the products treated for exportation and pays for their shipment to its USA base. The items are then photographed, described for market and placed on the CPCS Haiti website for sale. When the item sells, 100% of the selling price returns to Haiti through the cooperative. Annually, the cooperative members decide how to use these profits. Some may be returned to the artisans and sisal producers on a pro rata basis. The cooperative may also decide to use some of its profits to support community development projects in its communities.
You can browse and buy these unique items in our store with the assurance that your purchase is a one-of-a-kind handmade item. You can also enjoy knowing that you have helped Haitian families feed, clothe, and educate their children. This cooperative has the goal of promoting sustainable commerce with sisal for the benefit of its members and the communities where they live.
Go to this link to browse and buy: CPCS Haiti Online Store
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