Sewing to survive


In a bid to escape hunger, brothers Renard and Wilfrid Noel moved from a provincial town to Haiti’s capital and set up a sewing shop. But the earthquake on 12 January 2010 completely destroyed the shop.
“When my brother and I started our business, it was to avoid dying of hunger,” says Renard, 30. “Things were very difficult and so many times people in our neighbourhood told us you can’t make a living from sewing in Haiti.” 
The brothers had set up the Noel Sewing Shop in Delmas 19, an area badly affected by the quake where the British Red Cross is helping communities get back on their feet through an urban regeneration programme.
Red Cross support
As part of the programme, the brothers received a US$625 cash grant to help recover the business. Renard Noel says: “With the grant, we bought two sewing machines and material to restart our shop.”
Following an assessment of small/micro enterprises in Delmas 19, the British Red Cross identified key challenges people faced as lack of training and qualifications, limited income and no access to credit. 
The British Red Cross then began working in partnership with other local organisations with expertise in livelihoods, to improve the capacity of existing entrepreneurs and enterprises in Delmas 19, and increase employment opportunities, products and services available in the community. Through the programme more people are now receiving training to better manage their business and have access to a loan from Zafen, a Haitian microfinance institution.
Improving business
Following the Red Cross cash grant to help them get restarted, the Noel brothers received a loan of US$2,500 from Zafen. 
“Thanks to the British Red Cross, Noel Sewing Shop will grow rapidly,” says Wilfrid, 34. “We plan to buy two more sewing machines that will allow us to manufacture more t-shirts, shirts and shorts. We will be able to pay back the loan and maybe take out another one quickly. This is the biggest investment we’ve ever made.”
Renard adds: “We can now hire two other people from the community to work with us, one to cut cloth and the second to work the new sewing machines. It’s not easy to find a loan in Haiti when you have a small business and are coming from a poor neighbourhood like Delmas 19. But now we can gain a credit history.”
Local employment
Stanley Toussaint Jean, 27, has been working at the Noel Sewing Shop for a few months. “The business is useful for the community,” he says. “People can easily buy their clothes here and don’t have to buy more expensive ones at the market.”
Renard says: “We create employment directly and indirectly. We have employers here, but also people buy our products to resell in their own businesses and they hire people to do that. People in Delmas 19 are doing business by selling our clothes.”
A Red Cross cash grant helped the Noel brothers restart their sewing business, which was destroyed in the Haiti earthquake.

Read more from the British Red Cross about their work in Haiti.