Haiti 10 Years Later: How Kenneth Cole is Making a Difference

Nikara Johns

Ten years ago, a devastating earthquake hit Haiti, killing more than 200,000 people and displacing millions of its citizens. While many people and organizations came to the nation’s aid soon after the natural disaster, that support has since waned.

But designer Kenneth Cole is among the few still dedicated to helping its people recover, and his help has been much more than simply writing a check.

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“Even 10 years later, it is hard to process what we all witnessed in Haiti,” he told FN just before the 10-year anniversary. “Arguably, the country was already the poorest and most underserved in the Northern hemisphere. We sought to find a way to make a meaningful impact with our limited resources for a country with unlimited needs.”

Over the years, Cole and his company has been a major proponent of Haiti’s improvement through various methods that include helping to fund construction projects, fueling job creation, supporting vocational education and visiting the people of Haiti. He has since built The Kenneth Cole Haiti Health Center in Citi Soleil, in partnership with the St. Luke’s Foundation, and he most recently collaborated with fashion legend Donna Karan for a special project last summer aiming to create more change.

Through Karan’s Urban Zen retail concept and Cole’s Gentle Souls footwear label, the duo debuted a shoe collection in July featuring 10 Haitian-inspired looks made by the country’s artisans. (Cole and Karan were honored with FN’s Icon Award for Social Impact last month.)

“Haiti is going through horrendous times. What we were able to accomplish wasn’t easy. It’s hard and, of course, has gotten harder, but we stay committed to these people that we have come to admire and respect. If it was not for this collection, they would not have jobs, which makes it all the more purposeful,” he said.

In remembrance of the anniversary and his devotion to helping the country rebuild, Cole is encouraging people to donate $10 in support of the St. Luke’s Foundation where he will match all donations, up to $10,000.

Last year on this date, FN traveled with the designer to Haiti to witness his humanitarian mission firsthand. Read it here.

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