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'Beljoy' provides jobs in Haiti - KOAM TV 7

'Beljoy' provides jobs in Haiti

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JOPLIN, MISSOURI -

Abby Clevenger's husband and his family have had a heart for Haiti for over 40 years through Haitian Christian Mission. Clevenger's husband brought her for her first trip in 1998 to the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. They had a hope to create jobs in a place where little exist.

Clevenger, a fashion designer by trade, has since began Beljoy Haiti, a jewelry company that operates both out of her Joplin home and in Haiti. Clevenger contracts with four Haitian women, who she has met and trained. Beatrice, Toch, Decile and Mercilia all begin their days by walking several miles for water, then making a fire to cook their children breakfast over. Then, they get to work creating beautiful pieces of hand-crafted jewelry. 

"It's amazing, I learn from them everyday. They have so much joy, they're happy, eager to learn and they pick it up very quickly. They're proud of their job," Clevenger said. 

The women use local resources for their pieces, including clay, horn and paper beads. The result? Beautiful jewelry with an aesthetic flair.

Beljoy is sold at several local places, including Sophie in downtown Joplin. 

"Even if people know nothing about it, they're drawn to it just because of the look of it. Because they do like the aesthetic look, then once they learn the story and what it's all about, they're drawn to it even more," Sophie manager Ashley Wakefield said.

Clevenger works on her jewelry at a workspace in her home. Her niece, Jade Thompson, often tags along.

"It's chaos," Thompson said of the jewelry-making, "yesterday we worked for probably 12 hours."

The jewelry is eye-catching, which is why loyal customers are stopped and asked about it so much.

"It's more than jewelry, it's more than something I buy at the store. I'm helping to a cause that really gives women self-worth," customer Sherri Durling said.

Self-worth and a liveable wage. But Clevenger said she learns just as much from them as they do from her.

"This is hand-crafted with love. The Haitians are very proud of their work. They love making the jewelry, and we just hope everyone else loves wearing it," Clevenger said.

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