One of the first things I noticed about Joe Knittig was his cowboy boots. The CEO of the Global Orphan (GO) Project, Joe traded in his suit and tie for more practical gear in 2005, after a trip to Haiti called him to leave his law career for a role building the infrastructure of a transformative organization designed to break the cycle of orphanhood.
It was Joe that greeted me with a handshake at the airport on that first, fateful trip to Haiti I took with my wife, Amanda and twin sons that resulted in the launch of Allmade. And it was Joe that later introduced me to Paula Coles and Jeff Blatt, the founders of LIFE SA. LIFE, which stands for “Love is For Ever,” is the name of the production center where Allmade products are made, as well as other products under the brand name of GOEX. 100% of the profits from GOEX support the GO Project’s mission of orphan care and prevention.
Paula and Jeff both have a long history within Haiti’s apparel industry. Having married into one Haiti’s most influential families with ownership interests in the sector, Paula knew the ins and outs of how the garment market worked from first-hand experience—the good, the bad, and the ugly. After witnessing the devastation wrought by 2010’s earthquake, Paula decided to put that experience to good use, starting a living wage production facility that could give those affected by the disaster the resources they needed to rebuild.
Jeff used to run some of the factories owned by Paula’s former husband’s family—pumping out more than 2 MILLION T-SHIRTS PER WEEK for Hanes—and like Paula, he was ready to turn the page on a new chapter of his career and give something back to Haiti. Jeff had borne personal witness to the exploitative nature of the industry, which capitalizes on the desperation of impoverished people to source cheap labor, driving costs down and margins up. He had seen too many workers spent 20 years sewing sleeves while struggling to support their families.
In just six short years, Paula and Jeff, with the help of Joe and the GO Project, have grown LIFE from a small operation producing handbags from garment clippings dug out of the trash of nearby factories, to an artisan goods and apparel facility employing more than 100 people, a number that Allmade’s initial order alone will increase by 40%. Currently, about 10% of their employees are graduates of the GO Project’s Transition Academy, a new program designed to enable orphans who are aging out of foster care for success, giving them valuable life and job skills. The remainder are experienced workers whose salaries support, on average, eight family members.
Visiting LIFE gave me confidence that we were choosing the right partner for Allmade. Not only do they pay workers 5x the typical wage in Haiti, but they also provide them with bonuses, transportation assistance (ask me about Tap Taps!), on-site health care, and a safe, clean location for productive work. In the midst of a country devastated by poverty, lacking in opportunity, and encompassed by desperation—they’ve created a haven of hope, a place that is breathing new LIFE into Haiti’s economy and people.
Unlike other non-profit ventures, the GO Project and LIFE’s mission is not to provide aid and then leave. Their joint mission, and now ours at Allmade, is to create real, sustainable change and economic growth in Haiti through the power of ongoing, dignified work. To “invest in a man’s fishing business and become his customer, so that he can feed others,” as my friend Joe would say.
When you buy an Allmade t-shirt, you are investing in that “fishing business,” funding jobs that will support Haitian families, and break the cycle of poverty that creates financial orphans. We believe you’ll feel as good about buying and wearing Allmade products as we do about making them.
Please join us in our mission. Visit our Indiegogo campaign page to back Allmade with the purchase of a shirt you can feel good about wearing.