Laura Martin (seated) works with Haitian seamstresses who make new, fashionable products out of recycled ties and fabric scraps. 

The leaders of Ties That Matter, a non-profit that helps Haitian women grow their incomes by creating fashionable and decorative products from recycled neckties, are using their experiences in the poverty-stricken country to inspire Atlanta’s youth. 

Laura Martin, co-founder and executive director, has written a storybook about three children who addressed the issue of childhood hunger in Haiti by helping their mothers find sewing jobs. The book will be used as the basis for Heroes Matter, a new program that will encourage local fourth graders to think about how to impact their world.   

“Our goal is to teach students what we learned in Haiti with a greater goal of convincing them that everyone can make a difference,” Ms. Martin said. 

Ties That Matter employs about 35 village women on the island of La Gonave making products including embroidered pillows, Christmas ornaments and wall fabric plaques, purses and dolls made of neckties and the superhero dolls that inspired the program.

“The idea is that children will read the story and they will choose an issue, create their own hero, and write a story about how they would solve that issue,” Ms. Martin said of the Heroes Matter program, which will be piloted in four local schools with some 200 students. 

Ties That Matter started in 2009 by working with low-income women in Atlanta, but during a trip to La Gonave in 2011, Ms. Martin found that the women there had impressive sewing skills but lacked access to resources to make a living. The group gained nonprofit status in 2012 and has continued investing in its goal of empowering women through employment. 

Many of the Haitian employees had never had a job. Now, some have started their own businesses and earned enough income to move to town and put their children into school. The organization provides two hot meals per week at its sewing schools in two villages, which it hopes to outfit with more modern equipment as it raises more funds. 

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As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...