The visionary artisanal company Stray Dog Designs decided in 2005 to make the daring move of investing in an art and design workshop in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Most American companies at the time shied away from doing production work on the underdeveloped island because of the lack of services and the poverty. Not Stray Dog. Its philosophy has always been to create sustainable jobs wherever they are needed most, and Haiti–a country full of talented but unsupported artists–was the perfect place to start a shop.
When the company arrived at Port-au-Prince five years ago, the situation was bleak. As one of the founders, Bill Pritchard, describes it, gun battles between the local gangs would happen outside the workshop on an almost daily basis. But as more artists came on board and the few foreign companies gained recognition in the local community, the street fighting in the area started to subside. “In the past couple of years, there were many more businesses investing in Haiti,” says Pritchard. “The mood was starting to change . . . and that’s why its so sad.” Since the earthquake struck, on January 12, Prichard fears the Stray Dog workshop, the employees, and Haiti itself may never fully recover.
Pritchard and his wife and business partner, Jane Gray (left), have heard only from a few workers but their reports are worth sharing. One employee e-mailed simply, “I’m alive.” Another staffer, who lives in the suburbs of Port-au-Prince, said his village has yet to see any aid. And the couple who oversees the day-to-day business at the workshop says that at the moment more than 700 people are camping in the yard of their one-acre home. The original shop is awaiting inspection, which may not take place for months or longer, and the desire to carry on is pervasive. Not only do these artisans need money, they are desperate for stability, an avenue for expression, and a distraction from their desolate surroundings.
To help their 100-plus artisans in Haiti, the Stray Dog Designs Haitian Worker Relief Fund has been established with this intention:
The money we collect will be used to directly help our workers and friends of Stray Dog Designs in Haiti to rebuild their lives, whatever that means: donating blankets or clothing, acquiring medical assistance, rebuilding homes, or maybe help relocating to another area. Whatever the need, we wish to continue to help the very people we went to help in the first place.
Stray Dog will match fifty cents on every dollar raised up to $10,000. To show your support, please consider making a donation via PayPal or check. Click here for the PayPal account or send a check directly to: Stray Dog Designs at 611 E. 11th St., Chattanooga, TN 37403. Please make the check out to “Stray Dog Designs Haitian Worker Relief Fund.”
A sampling of the papier-mâché furniture and accessories made by the Stray Dog artisans in Haiti.
To see more of their work or learn more about the company, please visit straydogdesigns.com