One can read about the struggles and peruse pictures depicting downtrodden individuals and impoverished conditions, but nothing compares to witnessing hope and progress in action and experiencing “the seeds of hope pushing through the dirty soil to get to the sunlight.” One might see the depressing pictures, but that doesn’t negate the positives and the possibilities that exist. The following first-person perspective addresses the hope that is sprouting. Read on to discover her journey to La Gonave.
The following was originally published on the Roots of Development website following an interview with BoulderShares’ President, Leslie Sosnowski.
“Every trip to Haiti is the first trip. I have traveled to Haiti before but this time it was different. Roots has such a great energy to it and a unique local connection with the community. Chad [Roots’ Co-founder and Executive Director] has such a great relationship with the community, it is a real gift. He did not try to come in and “fix” things, but rather listened to the community, and let them drive the conversation and the change. He planted the seed, and now the work and efforts of the community is enabling it to grow.
Although Haiti is only an hour and a half flight from the US, there are such stark differences. Being out on the island of La Gonave makes this contrast even stronger, as mainland Haiti has access to many more services and infrastructure. My journey to La Gonave started with a small charter flight to the island, which I took with an open heart and mind. As soon as my flight landed, I hopped on the back of a dirt bike headed out along the coast and up in the hills, for a rough ride through poor and rural areas. I was welcomed by my host family with utmost pride and hospitality. Escorted by Chad, I made my way through the community to start meeting with people and seeing the projects.
I visited the solar cell-phone charging station and a few clean water projects, but was particularly impressed with the women’s group community business. When we walked in to the store, Carline, the President of the group, was lying on a bench feeling very sick, yet still manning the store. It was incredible, though, as she began talking about the business, what it meant to her, and all that the women had accomplished, she started to perk up. Her resiliency was so inspiring.
That was the very moment I realized the true strength of community, and the positive impact a strong sense of community can have. I was further impressed with Carline when she was discussing how the business came together to work through logistical concerns, and saw their operation in action when they greeted a customer and processed her transaction.
At the end of my trip, I was touched by the fact that the community had come together to celebrate my visit with a huge meal and plaque of recognition. I kept thinking, shouldn’t they be the ones recognized for their achievements? Women and children are improving their own living conditions in La Gonave. Right then and there I made the commitment to be their voice to the outside world, and to do what I could to connect people back to this extraordinarily uplifting community by sharing their stories.
Since I returned from my trip, I have been following the progress of the Women’s Group and their business. I was so proud and impressed to see their plans developing for the next phase of their expansion, to include a new larger store location to expand inventory offerings with increased lighting and security for the women. After visiting with these women and seeing what this business means to them and their community, it is incredible to come home and continue to hear good news of their successes. They are now bringing in over USD $7,000 a month, and I know that their business will only continue to flourish as they strengthen their capacity as business owners and begin to dedicate their revenue to community initiatives for children.
This trip showed me firsthand that we are all the same, no matter where we are from. I have learned so much more from these people than I could ever teach. I really encourage anyone who has the means or opportunity to support Roots of Development and their unique and impactful approach to community investment.”
Roots of Development is a non-profit community-investment organization commited to a philosophy of Development without Dependency. It assists communities that lack financial resources by educating and training the people to manage and promote their own development and growth, rather than merely rely on the continued support of charity organizations. By working to help community members to gain and hone organizational and management skills, true long-term and sustainable development becomes possible.
BoulderShares and Roots of Development have been collaborating since 2011. BoulderShares has always been a big proponent of moving Haiti toward a role of growth and success through Haitian efforts. While they are undeniably in need of goods and services in the immediate future, teaching and training will serve the country and its people far better in the long term. Ensuring that women and children are afforded the tools, techniques and know-how needed to establish their place as essential contributing members in the development of Haiti is critical, for the country needs every member of society to participate in advancement.
La Gonave on the Map