We were so excited that Carmin & Christian Black joined us on our photo shoot in Haiti. The Black siblings are the founders of Half United, and the people behind the concept of using a recycled bullet casing to represent your fight against hunger. Not to mention, one of our fabulous Marketplace brands on TOMS.com. Read more to hear about their experience during their time in Haiti.
Tell us about Half United.
At HALF UNITED we donate a week of meals to a child in need with every product sold. We are a give-back lifestyle and accessories company on a mission to fight and end hunger in the USA and abroad. HALF UNITED was founded by my brother and I in 2009 with only a $200. At the time I was 24, and Christian was only 19! We were both passionate about fashion and philanthropy (two things that heavily influenced our childhood) and knew that combining these two to create one company was the perfect fit for our lives. Over the last five years we have seen our brand grow leaps and bounds from our humble beginnings, but our mission has never changed. We UNITE with our customers and supporters to fight and end hunger.
You’re currently giving in the USA, Fiji, Cambodia and Madagascar. What’s next?
Inspired by our recent trip to Haiti with TOMS we are working on some exciting feeding efforts there, as well as an exciting project in Rwanda through a partnership with an organization called “Kula Project.” In the USA we are working on strengthening our feeding efforts here at home via planting new community gardens in our hometown, and strengthening our campus club’s efforts to fight hunger in the cities where they are based.
What was the most inspiring thing that you saw in Haiti?
How stunning the country really is- both because of the kindness of its people and its natural elements. The media seems to focus on the rubble leftover from the earthquake, or children eating mud cakes, or rows of tent homes. What is not shown is the resiliency of the people, or the fact that because Haiti sits in the Caribbean the oceans, and mountains, and waterfalls there have unparalleled beauty.
What small things can people do to help others?
Be kind. To everyone. Everyone has a unique story to tell, and everyone has been through something- often times much harder than what you’ve been through. Kindness and encouragement spread as easily as hatred and can just as easily change the world.
What were your perceptions of Haiti before you left? How about after the trip?
I was expecting to see devastation, and poverty, and sadness. I was scared actually, because I thought my heart would have to return home broken by the things I saw. The truth is, I did see poverty, and I did see rubble, but what I saw amidst that were happy people, doing normal things, as part of their normal lives. I saw people who who valued friendships over material items, People who appreciated the finer things in life like great art, and fun music, and great food. I left feeling more like this is the land of opportunity as there is some much good left to be done, than a lost cause that should be forgotten.
What is a specific memory that you have of wearing TOMS in Haiti? Where were you?
There was this one day where we visited this little barber shop and while waiting outside of this shop three high school students came up to me and started talking to be about what they wanted to be when they grew up. Two wanted to be family doctors, and the third a therapist. They noticed we had TOMS on and said how much they loved the brand and how thankful they were that TOMS is providing jobs to their neighbors in Haiti. I didn’t tell them we were there with TOMS, but instead I listened and took in how thankful they were for what TOMS does for their country. I know they too will one day change their nation for the better. They impacted me and I will never forget the fun conversation we had for just a few short minutes.
How did the trip change your idea of what TOMS does?
For me it just continued to inspire me to fight for what’s right in my own company. From business practices to how we help those in need, running a give back company can be challenging. Not only do you have to pay your own people fair wages, and provide them with enjoyable working environments, but you also must work on behalf of little lives who you may never get to personally meet. I think TOMS works hard to stay true to its word and fulfill its mission, while also running a thriving business. What I saw was amazing. From the great planning, to the superb working conditions they gave to their factory workers there its obvious how committed to excellence the entire TOMS team is.