Meeting the Women of Dam Dam

by Elena on February 14, 2012 in Bloggers4Haiti

A group of women working on their craft + Bloggers yearning to tell a story + Talk of Internet= Pure Magic

The Women of Dam Dam | Ciao Mom

Meeting the Women of Dam Dam

During our Bloggers4Haiti trip to Haiti, we stopped in Leogane, the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake, one hour outside of Port au Prince, to meet the ladies of the Dam Dam Craft Cooperative.  Our afternoon with one of the three groups that joins the forces of 60 women working together to produce stunning papier mache pieces, became one of the highlights of our entire trip…something truly magical.

When we arrived at the school turned artist’s studio, we watched as twenty women came on foot to the meeting room ready to “create.”  The students of the school had just left for the day and as the women assembled, they took out the moistened paper and recycled materials they would need to get to work. Sitting on small chairs, their hands began to paint, to knead, to create.

Learning from Each Other

We knew that this was going to be a special afternoon when the women started asking us questions about our lives, wanting to know our story and why we were in Haiti.  Their model of a cooperative group that provides emotional support to one another as they knead their hands through the scraps of paper that will become the papier mache, or paint recycled bottle caps that would become earrings, was evident as not only did they want to share their stories with us, but as they engaged in authentic interactions beyond cursory greetings.

These women wanted to know us. To understand us. To learn what motivated us.  They wanted to bond and create a community with us, based on dialogue…based on a give and take of sharing, of smiles, and of heart felt emotions.

The Women of Dam Dam using recylced bottle caps | Ciao Mom

And….they grew throughout our time together, to want the internet.

In a stroke of genius, Justice Jones took out her laptop to show her what a website looked like. You would have thought that these women were seeing the world for the very first time. The sparkle in their eyes. Young and old, they were all transfixed on the little screen.

Bringing the Internet to Dam Dam

Which of course, begs the question. Could a group of ladies, from Leogane benefit from the internet? Is there even wireless service accessible?

The Women of Dam Dam Haiti | ciao mom

The short answer, is YES. There are wireless cafes in surrounding areas, which present their own problems as far as transportation, but they do exist. Their community leader, Jean, has been working on setting up social media accounts like twitter, Facebook, and MySpace to start telling the story of these women.  But the longer answer, is that so much more needs to be done.  The amazing Leticia Barr of Tech Savvy Mama just last week sent a pink netbook to the women of DamDam,  But we all left that afternoon knowing that so much more can be done. Not in a, “we know what is best” way, but with planning and input about what the women of Dam Dam really need and want.

Self sufficiency.  The ability to tell their story. The feeling of pride and passion in one’s work.  What the women of Dam Dam seek is really no different than what most of us strive for.

The next steps for these women will take time. They will take effort. They will take people committed to listening, to respecting the pride, the passion, and the artistry instead of wanting to swoop in and “make things better.”  But it will happen. The women of Dam Dam want it. And so do the Bloggers4Haiti.

Ciao Mom


Dam Dam is funded by Tevel B’Tezedek /IsraAid. You can see more examples of the beautiful work of the women on their Facebook page.

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{ 1 comment }

willa shalit February 17, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Elena thanks for telling the story of the Dam Dam ladies so beautifully! Your words brought the afternoon to life for me … what an exciting moment, and a thrilling beginning of a journey for them (and us!) xoxoxox

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