January 10, 2020
“The smells, the view, the rubble — it’s all really still planted in my mind of exactly stepping off that plane for the first time,” says David Graben, COO and President of Soles4Souls.
Ten years ago, our hearts shattered when a magnitude-7.0 earthquake devastated Haiti and millions of people. Six months later, staff from Soles4Souls visited Haiti for the first time, and in a lot of ways, that’s how the story of our organization began.
“I came back and for weeks, I just really couldn’t adequately communicate the experience I had,” says Tiffany Turner, Director of Outreach.
What initially started off as a couple of trips for disaster relief, turned into much more after meeting Sam Darguin, the Country Director of Haitian American Caucus.
When Darguin reached out about a school in Port-de-Paix that desperately needed shoes, Soles4Souls brought a team to do a distribution, and from there it sparked more conversations about what a micro-enterprise program could look like.
“He was really committed, and it moved me. To see the conditions he was working in, the people he was working with, and that he was not going to give up,” says Buddy Teaster, CEO of Soles4Souls.
The goal for Soles4Souls and Darguin quickly became using shoes to build economic empowerment among Haitian women.
Since then, Soles4Souls has traveled to Haiti 58 times to distribute shoes and has helped over 400 Haitian women start and sustain small businesses selling shoes.
“The skepticism that I had on whether or not shoes can make the difference, whether or not shoes can really change the narrative for so many women here in Haiti… Nearly 10 years later, seeing all of the stories, all of the impact, all of the lives that continued to be changed. Had I known that nearly 10 years ago, I would have had a much different outlook on things to know what really that one pair can do,” says Darguin.