Haute Couture in Haiti

How Dorcas Ministry Shop is revitalizing the economy—and women’s lives—in Port au Prince
Haute Couture in Haiti
Image: COURTESY OF KIM HARMS

Life in the destitute nation of Haiti is hard. But through Dorcas Ministry Shop, God is using Esther Giunta to ease the burden of poverty for a small group of women in the capital city of Port au Prince. Just as Dorcas in the book of Acts is remembered for doing good and helping the poor, Esther's desire is for the bridal gown rental business to be an avenue through which the poor and the widows of Haiti can be helped.

Specializing in renting and selling reasonably priced bridal and formal gowns, Dorcas Ministry Shop offers a needed service to its customers and life-changing wages to its employees. Acquiring a steady income is a dream come true in a nation where the poverty rate is 78 percent.

When the shop opened in 2012, it not only brought to fruition an idea that evolved in Esther's mind over a period of years, but it also brought great joy to her mission-minded heart.

Becoming a missionary to Haiti

Though Esther was nearing retirement age when she first set foot in the country of Haiti, her heart for missions goes back to childhood. "I remember as a teenager I always wanted to go on the mission field. I've always had a heart for it," she said.

A preacher's kid, Esther grew up to marry a preacher herself. Through most of her adult life, she and her husband Pino's mission field was in the United States, but when they made the leap from shepherding an American church to caring for Haitians, they knew it was the right place and the right time.

Her brother-in-law and sister, Bill and Ann Nealey founded an organization called Mission to Haiti in the early 1980s, and Bill regularly encouraged the Giuntas to visit the country. "Bill would always say, 'Why don't you come to Haiti with us?' But we resisted. We just didn't feel the call," said Esther.

In 2006 Esther agreed to a short-term trip, and the country reminded her of the poor area in Italy where Pino grew up. "I came back home and said, 'It's (Haiti) what you know. Only it's a lot worse."

Months later, Pino resigned from his pastorate and the couple was added to Mission to Haiti's staff in January of 2007. Pino's personal testimony of an impoverished childhood has allowed him to reach Haitians in a way other people can't. And Esther's passion for the people has led to a business opportunity she could not have dreamed up on her own.

She originally planned to open a used clothing store with a supply of items that had been donated to the mission from abroad. "Bill kept prodding me to find a way to help someone earn a living with some of the (donated) clothes," she said.

Kim Harms

Kim Harms is a regular contributor for Today's Christian Woman and freelance writer living in Iowa with her husband and three sons. In addition to writing, she operates 500 Dresses, a ministry providing clothing and sewing supplies to women and children living in poverty. Kim can be found online at KimHarms.net or on Twitter at @kimharmsboymom.

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Business; Calling; Missions; Outreach; Service
Today's Christian Woman, September/October , 2013
Posted August 30, 2013

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