Herman Miller Empowers Mothers In Haiti

(3BLMedia/Justmeans) – Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the poorest countries in the developing world. Its per capita income of $250 is considerably less than one-tenth the Latin American average. So, when a positive and unique story comes along about empowering local mothers, you immediately want to share that story. It is about how scrap fabric from the acclaimed Herman Miller, the global furniture designer and manufacturer, is being put to good use, and has initiated a circular economy by helping women in Haiti earn money to keep their children.

It all started in 2013 when a relative of a Herman Miller employee witnessed several desperate Haitian women who couldn’t afford to feed their children turned away by full local orphanages. It was a heart-breaking pivotal moment when this relative realised that if she taught these mothers a skill – like sewing – they’d be able to sell their own products, earn a living and support their children. This was how the Gift of Hope was founded, through the Haiti Foundation Against Poverty (HFAP) organisation.

The Herman Miller employee connected their relative who set up HFAP with Herman Miller Cares, the company’s employee-led foundation and its operations team. Since this connection, magic has been created; there have been donations of $12,500 along with 80,000 yards of scrap fabric, which these Haitian women use to sew purses, pillows and dolls. Herman Miller also purchases these products and gifts them to its clients. This project is a wonderful example of how a company can engage in a circular economy through a triple bottom line project and benefit the environment, all at the same time. Sending fabric to Haiti solved a much larger problem for Herman Miller and its fabric suppliers by reducing landfill cost, because fabric is not easy to recycle.

In 2010, HFAP opened a women’s business development program, called Gift of Hope, to work with HOPE House, an orphanage with the mission to return HOPE House children to their families. Gift of Hope aims to empower struggling mothers with the skills and income they need to better care for their children. The HFAP program isn’t the first of its kind for Herman Miller, as its rePurpose initiative connects organisations who no longer need their office furniture or supplies to not-for-profits who do need these items—thereby once again diverting discarded product from landfills. Since the idea launched eight years ago, Herman Miller has worked with companies like Shell Oil, BP, LinkedIn, Medtronic and John Deere. This year so far, more than 2,000 tons of product that normally would have been dumped in a landfill has been repurposed,

Herman Miller is determined to help create a self-sustaining culture of giving, enabled by a new generation of benevolent leaders. The company’s support to Haiti helps to improve the country’s economy and efforts to reduce poverty, and improves the lives of vulnerable mothers.

Photo Credit: Herman Miller