Hear from eight Kenneth Cole associates as they open up about their Love-Haiti relationship.
On our most recent trip to Haiti, Kenneth Cole and associates visited one of the most underserved countries in the Western Hemisphere to volunteer and join in on the good work being done to rebuild the community. From witnessing healing at work in the Kenneth Cole Haiti Health Center to experiencing the impact of the St. Luke Foundation for Haiti firsthand, hear from eight of our associates as they recount their time in Haiti and share their most memorable experiences from this impactful trip.
Area Manager, Greater Midwest
“At around 9 A.M. we entered the village of Cité Soleil, one of the poorest communities in the Western Hemisphere. The Haitians noticed us, yet paid no mind as they continued their daily routine. The village streets were quietly bustling when I suddenly heard screams. I looked at my surroundings and there was a man, hanging out of the front window of a vehicle. The screaming turned into cheers. This man had just found out he was elected Mayor. It was heartbreaking to watch a community that is so poor also be so politically aware. This man was raised in Cité Soleil and came back with the mission to lead it into a brighter tomorrow. Even if only for a moment, the people saw a glimmer of hope and celebrated—and I was fortunate enough to witness it.”
“I have studied French throughout my life, but never expected how knowing the language would shape my visit to Haiti. Outside the walls of The Kenneth Cole Haiti Health Center, lies Cité Soleil where local boys and girls ran up to us, mixing into our group. One girl held my hand like we were glued together, while two teenage girls linked arms with me—we were all fast friends. The teenage girls were ever curious about our group, and I felt honored that I was able to understand and answer their questions. I expected them to ask, “who are all of you?” and, “why are you here?” But instead, they wanted to know us on a personal level asking, “what is his name?” and “how old is she?” Even though we were only with the kids for a short time, my ability to relate and communicate with them in a language that they understood was invaluable.”
Senior Manager Men’s Production & Merchandising
“One of my most memorable moments from Haiti was during a visit to The Kenneth Cole Haiti Health Center is in Cité Soleil. Food and clean water are scarce. Homes are barely standing and have no plumbing or electricity. Gangs are prevalent. Children play barefoot in sewage. Many services we take for granted in the United States do not exist to them. The Kenneth Cole Haiti Health Center is an exception. A little girl came up to me and pulled me toward a boy who couldn’t have been more than six years old. I couldn't understand what she said in Creole, but she pointed to a gash in his leg that was raw and infected. I knew he needed attention right away. I walked him towards Wynn, a man who works closely with St. Luke’s and The Kenneth Cole Haiti Health Center. He held the little boy’s hand and walked him inside where the little boy would get help. The Kenneth Cole Haiti Health Center not only provides the medical services that are so desperately needed, but also serves as a reminder to Haitians that we stand with them. They are not forgotten. It made me incredibly proud to work for Kenneth Cole and be able to witness the difference that our health center makes for the children of Cité Soleil.”
“Prior to my trip to Haiti, I asked those who had traveled there before me what they loved most about the country. Everyone’s answer was the same: “the people.” I found the children of Haiti particularly memorable. Luciano was a child that stood out to me and made an impact. At only two years old, Luciano has suffered a life-threatening stroke and become known as a “miracle baby” because his doctors believed he would never walk again. Despite their challenges, Luciano and his mother Wideleine have limitless love in their hearts. In addition to supporting her son, Wideleine offers shelter and love to other mothers and children struggling to get by. While we were unable to communicate in a common language, the time I spent with them will forever be etched in my mind. The desire to pay it forward was supremely evident in Wideleine's heart and even brighter in the eyes of her son.”
Design Assistant, KCNY Men’s Footwear
“My most memorable moment on our trip to Haiti was visiting Cité Soleil. This was my second visit to the area, but this trip was a very different experience. As we entered Cité Soleil something magical happened—there were suddenly smiles on everyone’s faces, cries of excitement, cheering, and people running into the streets, coming up to the cars we were in. Until that moment, we had no idea that the newly elected mayor of Cité Soleil was inside one of the vehicles in our caravan. Within minutes hundreds of people surrounded our cars—it was an experience that I will never forget and in such sharp contrast to seeing the devastation that still exists in Haiti from shoeless children playing in garbage to being without clean water or a sufficient amount of food. For just a couple of minutes, there was a little more hope that these conditions could get better. Being able to see the Haiti Health Center with Kenneth Cole’s name on it made me so proud to not only work for Kenneth Cole but to have been a part of three separate trips to Haiti. It's great to know that we're a part of something that is truly making an impact on a devastated place that has come so far, but still needs so much help and support.”
Director, Procurement & Accounts Payable
“This was my fourth trip to Haiti, each visit rewarding in its own way. While it's difficult to see past the poverty, the people and the island are beautiful. It makes me happy to see progress being made with the infrastructure of the country—roads have been paved, garbage removed, new construction taking place and from what I understand, a middle-class forming. The one thing I will remember most was speaking with the high school students at the Academy for Peace and Justice where we mentored some of these kids. It was encouraging to see their thirst for knowledge and know that there is hope for a better life for them. There's still a lot to do in Haiti, but it is good to know that things are moving in the right direction.”
Sales Lead, SoHo
“When I found out we'd be visiting the most impoverished areas of Haiti, I still had no idea what we would experience. We visited Cité Soleil, one of the most dangerous areas built on a landfill. Thousands of children don't have access to running water, food, or electricity, living among filth, garbage, and feces. When we arrived, the children greeted us with such love. They admired the things about us that we take for granted or overlook. Visiting Cité Soleil not only made me feel grateful for what I have, but it made me feel guilty for overlooking the things I take for granted daily. I walked away from Cité Soleil feeling heartbroken by the devastated condition of the area, but with a different perspective on gratitude.”
“A four-hour flight from New York City sits Cité Soleil, Haiti. The moment our Kenneth Cole volunteer team walked into the residential slums, a mass of children, men and women cheered in our direction, their smiles ear to ear. Within seconds they embraced us, multiple children clinging to our torsos and arms, vying for our affection. They were so genuinely happy to show us their home, a place with devastating poverty where even the locals are too afraid to visit. During the first few minutes of our introduction, a group of girls became fascinated with my clean hair and began braiding it. Every few steps it unraveled. Realizing this, one of the girls quickly plucked the only hair tie from her sister's hair to secure my braid. Neither of them thought twice about offering me one of their very rare possessions. Their selfless generosity toward complete strangers was inspiring. We quickly learned that their kindness knew no bounds. In a place where children walk barefoot on roads littered with trash and use broken batteries as toys, we found humans who haven't lost touch with their humanity.”