A close up of a woman looking off-camera

Hermine’s Hopes

Working toward a brighter future in Haiti

Hermine Lafortune’s day starts before dawn. The single mother gets up early to tidy her rental house in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, prepare meals and ensure her son gets to school.

It’s a bit of a dash to get everything ready before work, but it’s worth it. She’s laying the foundation for a better life for her and her son.

Her ultimate dream? Building a house of her own.

A woman is silhouetted in a dark room
A woman waves goodbye to a young boy

Each day, Hermine reports to work at Global Manufacturers and Contractors (GMC), a large apparel manufacturer in Port-au-Prince. Across several warehouses — and amid the cacophony of sewing machines and heavy machinery — hundreds of people produce 350,000 pieces of clothing each week.

In Haiti, the apparel sector employs more than 65,000 people producing shirts, pants, skirts and more for sale.

A closeup of hands using a sewing machine

USAID works with the Haitian Government and companies to modernize the country’s private sector — creating much-needed jobs.

That, in turn, opens opportunities for people like Hermine.

A measuring tape draped around the back of a woman's neck
A woman works with a sewing machine

Hemine’s first job consisted of folding clothes all day, but she wanted more.

During her lunch breaks, she collected scraps and learned how to sew through hours of trial and error and the help of one of the trainers.

“I would practice and practice,” she said.

Hermine eventually became a trainer for new employees and then was promoted to a job in the sample room, where she transforms pictures and specs from clients into prototypes for their approval.

Her face beams with pride when discussing her work.

"It’s the sample that will be produced on the production floor,” she says, “and it needs to be perfect."

A closeup of hands working on a pattern
A closeup of a garment being sewn on a machine
Colleagues smile as they work in the clothing factory

In the past few years, USAID has helped GMC offer new services for its customers. This has helped the company expand and create almost 1,800 jobs in the formal economy — a critical need in a country where two-thirds of people do not have formal work.

Hermine says she’s happy in her position in the sample room and wants to continue sharpening her skills.

Her company, though, has bigger ambitions. Its goal is to continue growing and creating jobs in a city that greatly needs them.

A group of women in a discussion

Hermine’s dream lies just a few miles from work. She has already purchased a plot of land, and she’s saving toward the costs of building the house.

She believes that’s the next step to a better future for her and her son.

"I know I will achieve my dream," she said.

A woman outdoors in a small village
A woman outdoors in a small village

About This Story

USAID works with the Haitian Government and businesses through the Local Enterprise and Value Chain Enhancement project, which is designed to create economic growth through capacity building and job creation.

Through the project, USAID focuses on micro, small and medium enterprises. The project provides technical assistance, capacity development, training and small grants.

This project is part of USAID’s global efforts to work with partner countries to develop their private sectors as they progress on their journey to self-reliance.

These activities are designed to grow enterprises, align workforces with industry demand and support adaptation of international standards—with the goal of making partner countries’ economies more competitive and attractive to outside investors.

These projects help increase employment and incomes, expand the consumer class and strengthen potential markets for U.S. businesses.

Photos and video by Steve Dorst for USAID