In 2014, I was shooting in Haiti and met a family of shoemakers - a family trade. They explained to me that after the earthquake, large-name companies were 'donating' mass amounts of clothes and shoes to the country, and it put them completely out of business. Over time, the 'donated' materials were then being sold on the streets at an up-charged price. People needed jobs. I was struck by this economic pattern and how toxic mindless giving can be, no matter the intentions. I posted a photo-story about them explaining their situation, and people reacted with such shock and 'ah-ha!' mentality that I knew I needed to keep explaining stories like this. It could make a difference.
After a couple of years working in the advertising agency world, I took a week off to shoot in the Caribbean. On the rooftop of Haiti Design Collective, I was interviewing a man who had been able to buy a house for he and his family since working for the organization - a symbol of a truly prosperous life - and learning to save earnings. By the end of the conversation, not a dry eye was on that rooftop; he was so incredibly grateful. It was the moment I decided to leave my full-time job at my ad agency and pursue telling stories like this as a real career. Not just a hobby.
Media is a tide that we all have a pull in now, and media shapes world-views and understanding. If we use our small pull for good, the ones around us may use their pull for good, eventually causing a turn of tides - positively influencing the world.
For creatives looking to use their skills for good: you know why. You feel the fire to get involved in something bigger than yourself and the desire to bring others in with you - but my advice: never ever compare yourself and your work to other creatives. And never let a comparison keep you from starting, pursuing, or continuing a project or dream. Start with the mentality that your work matters, no matter how new or small you may feel. The potential for impact is infinite!
Haiti Design Co houses and partners with production teams working in many types of artisan crafting, including leatherwork, sewing, jewelry making, aluminum casting, metal work, weaving, beadwork, horn & bone, tailoring, and shoe making. They work to provide consistent employment in-house in order to give job training and stability to individuals in vulnerable situations, as well as raise up artisan leaders to succeed as independent entrepreneurs in the community.
Gentry Faith Wilson is a Texas-based humanitarian filmmaker and communications consultant for NGOs and social enterprises across the globe. After graduating from UT Austin with a passion for shedding light on social development in overlooked parts of the world, she started her film production company and spends much of her time shooting and observing cultures overseas. When she’s not filming, she is likely going on a long run with her husband, fishing, or drinking iced tea.