Tony Harris, founder and director of Made to Love, an all-volunteer nonprofit that creates jobs and funds education for children in Haiti, was a full time fireman who had hopes of sending a few children in Haiti to school. When he decided to complete his own undergraduate degree, he took courses that fit his time and finances but did not seem to quite fit his desire to do something that helped send those children to school. “Inexperienced, lacked direction, knowledge, and tools,” are the words he uses to describe himself before attending City Vision University. “I had started it [a degree] years ago and just never completed it when I became a fireman.” Harris, a long term fireman for over 13 years now, then made a decision to pivot from the Theology degree he had been pursuing to a degree in Nonprofit management—something “right along the lines of what I wanted.”
After being referred to City Vision by a friend and drawn in by the degree pathways and affordability, Harris took courses that he saw would provide him with hands-on, real world experience as opposed to a textbook. At the time, he was using his education for work he was doing essentially as a volunteer. At City Vision, he learned grant writing, basic accounting, ethical and moral financial practices, and was able to connect with people in his community with similar passions. However, the course of his life was changed yet again when he took a missions trip to Haiti in 2010, post the earthquake, to build homes.
During that missions trip, he saw a huge need for jobs and education, but had no idea on how he would be able to help. At first, he had the idea to sponsor a child. However, when he returned home, his wife, Christin, and their friend, Shari, learned to sew and sold shirts to raise money for education. Soon they shifted into the fair-trade space, purchasing jewelry, art, and metalwork from artists every time they returned to Haiti to be sold here in America. This shift allowed them to not only fund education, but also provide jobs and income for many artisans—achieving their main goals. They began with a “couple hundred bucks the first year, a couple thousand bucks, and every year we pretty much doubled.” In the past year, they have actually tripled and were able to open up a shop in the city.
Today, Made to Love is located in a storefront with a huge window on one of the busiest streets in Downtown Hamilton, Ohio, selling crafts and art created by Haitian artisans. The organization has funded a school that is completely run by them and has 250 children in school. Two hundred of these children attend their funded school, which also employs 6 teachers and provides all the books, uniforms, and needed materials. They are still continuing to work directly with 20 Haitian artisans and 3 co-ops to create jobs and even more educational opportunities, visiting these spaces to assure the quality of jobs. The reason they do what they do is to “better the lives of people in Haiti…lessening the number of orphans that parents are forced to abandon when unable to care for them.”
Harris, grounded with the education and tools he received from City Vision University, describes himself differently now. “Accomplishment, confidence, not overwhelmed”—all sentiments that come with working in his passion.
Tony Harris is a husband and father of two boys, fireman, and directs Made to Love alongside his wife, Christin, and their family friend, Shari, in Downtown Hamilton, Ohio. Made to Love is an all-volunteer nonprofit focused on creating jobs for Haitian artisans and educational opportunities for kids of all ages. The profits made from purchasing and selling items from artisans, markets, and co-ops are used to fund these educational opportunities. For more info, please visit Made-To-Love.org.