Julie Colombino went on a life-changing trip to provide disaster relief after the earthquake in Haiti. Little did Julie know it would be more life changing than she could imagine. While she was down there on what was to be a short term trip, providing water and other necessities to the people of Haiti, she was constantly told by the Haitian women, “What I need is a job so I can provide for my family”. Julie was there to pass out water, not give them a job. This statement, repeated over and over again, tugged at her heartstrings. What was she to do? Julie realized that all around her was garbage due to a lack of infrastructure to remove waste. Haitians just threw their garbage in the street, and it stayed there. Tires were abundant in these piles of rubbish. Julie saw opportunity! She came home, quit her corporate job, packed her things, and moved to Haiti to find a solution for these women. August 14, 2010,just 7 months after the unforgiving earthquake on January 12, 2010 that claimed 200,000 lives and left 300,000 homeless and jobless, is the day I will never forget. This is the day we opened the REBUILD Globally (RG) training center and workshop. This is the day that marks the beginning of the bravery of Haitian artisans, a Board of Directors, international and local volunteers and many friends and family. This is the day RG took a plunge to use what most people in the world consider discard-able waste and planned to revolutionize the way waste in Haiti is managed, the way international consumers buy and the way aid is delivered to devastated, poverty stricken communities.
She collected the tires, taught the women how to cut the rubber, and use the tires to manufacture sandals. Julie began to pay these women a living wage, taking no salary for herself. Julie shares, “People asked for jobs and we worked hand in hand in order to provide a dignified living-wage and livelihood opportunities for four Haitian women and men. On that day, August 14, 2010, that was all we could conceive: four people, four lives.” Through disease, sickness, challenges to grow a business, no funding, and no infrastructure in the country to assist her, Julie persisted.
The Strides sandal was created. By 2013, REBUILD Globally had an impact of:
- 17 REBUILD employees earning a living wage
- 20 vulnerable youth in Apprenticeship Program
- 5 street boys given full academic scholarships
- 2 REBUILD artisan landowners
- 6 REBUILD artisan homeowners,119 REBUILD renters
- 4000+ tires recycled
- 920 sandals sold
- 250 sandals donated to the Phillipines
- 25 women in microfinace project
Today, you can find the Strides sandal at the famous Ron Jon’s Surf Shop and support REBUILD Globally. And, you will find Julie spending more time here in the states because she is able to employ local women in Haiti to run the program, while she makes several trips a year to oversee the progress. Julie Columbino is truly a social entrepreneur.