Rags to Riches

Newsletter issue: 
June 2011
News item date: 
Monday, June 13, 2011

by Elissa Kergosien

THP's Rag-a-Muffin Program employs three sewers from the neighborhood who make hand-crafted bags from secondhand shirts.

Last year, using post-earthquake relief funding earmarked for job creation, Christina Moynihan arranged industrial sewing training for 23 adults in the Santo 5 neighborhood. As part of the practicum, the group produced the school’s uniforms. It was a great success!

Resolved to continue the group’s success, Christina came up with the idea of keeping on the boss tailor and a top student from the program to make purses and bags. Since the base patchwork cloth used to make the creative bags comes from cutting up secondhand t-shirts into squares, she named the second round of the employment project Rag-a-Muffin.

Currently, the Rag-a-Muffin Program employs a team of three from the neighborhood. The secondhand shirts come in bales shipped in from U.S. thrift stores. The team up-cycles these shirts into beautiful harlequin cloth to make one-of-kind bags, experimenting with various styles from simple totes to duffels, and even a laptop bag. Each bag is unique, some incorporating the t-shirt logos or hand-painted designs by local artists.

Besides providing full-time employment to two men and one woman from the neighborhood, the Rag-a-Muffin Program showcases the can-do attitude and artistic flare of Haitians—a positive image to invite investment in the country.  

This past month, Christina traveled with the Rag-a-Muffin bags, Haitian metalwork art, and Haitian paintings to Memphis, TN, where long-time THP supporters Alan and Jen Bosworth, generously offered their Mexican restaurant, Café Ole, as the venue for a very successful Haitian art auction, called “Sa Bel!” (That’s Beautiful!), which raised significant funds for THP. The name for the event was chosen “to show that there is a lot of beauty in Haiti and this art, and the work of the Rag-a-Muffin Program is evidence that things in Haiti are working,” said Christina.

Historic supporters of THP from Church of the Holy Spirit and St. Francis were there, along with friends and family of the auction collaborators Susan Prince, Denise Carpenter and Alan Bosworth. “Being there in Memphis at this event, I felt like things had come full circle,” explained Christina. “When Patrick and I started with THP 15 years ago, we were living in Memphis, and here I was years later with this great community of support to share some beautiful things of Haiti and THP.”

We are grateful to the Prince family for their help organizing the evening, along with Denise Carpenter for donating her time and talent as the event accountant. And a special thank you goes to the Bosworth family for putting on the event and providing the venue.

Donations to support the Rag-a-Muffin Program can be sent to THP’s Providence office (The Haitian Project, P.O. Box 6891, Providence, RI, 02940). Rag-a-Muffin bags can be purchased by contacting us at development@haitianproject.org or calling 401-351-3624.