May, 25 2012
The first partner we met in Haiti was entrepreneur Hans Garoute, President and founder of the country’s Institut national pour le développement et la promotion de la couture (INDEPCO, or “the National Institute for the Development and Promotion of Garment Making”). We met him in his Port-au-Prince warehouse, a hive buzzing with activity despite the early morning hour. Scores of garment-workers - professionals and apprentices alike – worked with concentration at their machines while others meticulously embroidered fabrics with thousands of small, brightly coloured beads.
We quickly realized we were dealing with a passionate man, someone with tremendous drive and generosity, but above all, a man bursting with ideas and ambition! Hans’ story started in Haiti, but continued for many years in the United States where he learned garment making at the Fashion Institute in New York. He later became a buyer for women’s clothing lines. The years spent outside his beloved homeland proved the effectiveness of assembly-line production to him.
As some clothing he bought during that time was made in the United States, but assembled in Haiti, he decided to take advantage of the opportunity and return to his country. Since then, he has been at the head of a national network of over 600 workshops.
Once INDEPCO opened, Garoute quickly realized that there was a shortfall in training, so he called on the services of the VCP. “Technical assistance provided by volunteer consultants from the VCP provided our instructors with thorough training. Every three months, they in turn passed on the knowledge and the skills to more than a hundred young people, which supported their integration into the job market. Some of them even opened their own workshops and joined the network,” explained the businessman. “Also,” he mentioned, “thanks to the VCP, we can now not only win government contracts, but also international contracts!”. For example, he secured an order to make 40,000 aprons for the company Digicel, an accomplishment he’s proud of.
A little later in the week when we were passing through Gonaives, we had the chance to meet a young man who received training in one of Garoute’s workshops. He explained that the training changed his life. “The technical training I got in Port-au-Prince enabled me to practice a trade. I am now a manager and an instructor at INDEPCO’s offices in Gonaives, and I recently opened a boutique where I sell some of my handmade creations.”