Youth Leadership in Haiti

On Wednesday February 3, more than seven hundred young people gathered at the Aristide Foundation for Democracy to launch the Aristide-Lavalas Youth league  (Ligue de la Jeunesse Aristido-Lavalasse).  The goal of the Youth League is to bring young people together to vitalize Haiti’s democracy and to initiate service projects to help their communities in the fields of education and health.

Each department of Haiti was represented by a delegation of 10-12 young people all of whom made the long trip to Port-au-Prince because they want to contribute to the building of a participatory democracy in Haiti.   Early in the morning of Feb 2, these departmental youth delegations met for a four-hour discussion/ workshop in the conference room of the AFD to share perspectives, brainstorm ideas, and create an orientation for the new organization.  Pyschologist Wladimir Constant facilitated this dialogue titled, “The Leadership of the Young.”

Toussaint Hilaire, director of the AFD addresses the youth delegates

For the second stage of the event the delegations came downstairs, and onto the stage of the auditorium, where they were welcomed with thunderous applause by over 700 other young people from the department of the West (Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas), who gathered in the auditorium to welcome the national delegates and to officially launch this Youth League.

Much of the organizing to launch the Youth League was done by young UNIFA graduates together with the leadership of the Foundation.   These young doctors who began their medical training at UniFA before the 2004 coup d’etat, and then finished their training in Cuba, are now back in Haiti and have been central to all the AFD’s efforts to assist in the wake of the earthquake.   This initiative also builds on the Foundation’s efforts over the past year to empower young people to be at the forefront of service in wake of the quake (though mobile clinics staffed by young doctors, mobile schools staffed by young high school and college graduates, and our youth-led mental health project Soulaje Lespri Moun, and the the reopening of UNIFA ).

Youth Delegates on the stage at the AFD, Feb. 2, 2011

The launching of this youth league represents the determination of all the young people who have came together on February 3, to offer their energy, creativity, and vitality towards a new Haiti.

Rose Yvica Roche Volcy and Yves Merry Stuart Roche were the MC’s for the ceremony in the auditorium.   Hancy Pierre Louis, professor of economics and former Vice Governor of the Central Bank, gave a presentation on Haiti’s economy.

Hancy Pierre Louis addressing the Youth League

Wladimir Constant, spoke again on the centrality of youth leadership, and Toussaint Hilaire, the Director of the Arsitide Foundation spoke about the importance of youth gaining confidence in themselves through service to the country and offered perspectives on the kinds of civic and service projects the Youth League might undertake, such as literacy programs for adults, and educational projects for children who are not in school.

Joseph Marc Anderson, a youth representative then spoke on behalf of the league and presented its charter to those present.

A cultural presentation by Kolonb Dor, the youth troupe of the Aristide Foundation followed.

We look forward to seeing this new organization evolve and flourish.  Only Haitians can rebuild Haiti.

FET MANMAN – Mother’s Day in Haiti

Every year on the last Sunday of May (Haitian Mother’s Day) the Aristide Foundation for Democracy, holds a special event to honor mothers. Sunday May 30 the AFD welcomed 3,500 women to the auditorium of the Foundation for a very special day of communion and solidarity– to offer solace, and encouragement, and a chance to speak out to women representing mothers across Haiti.

The event was planned for 2,000 people, but an overflow crowd filled the balconies, hallways and rear of the auditorium.

The event opened with a multi-denominational religious ceremony – including a presentation by Pastor Eddie Hebron, an African-American Minister from Savannah, Georgia.

Three mothers, Gladys Delouis, a long time AFD staff member and women’s organizer, Merry Roche, the coordinator of the AFD Mobile Schools Program, and Madame Florence Agenor, a community organizer from Cite Soleil who spoke in the name of the mothers of Cite Soleil, rallied the crowd.  All of them spoke of the hardships faced by Haitian mothers today.  After losing family members, children, their homes, and whatever small businesses they might have had, are now suffering in the “tents of humiliation” where they have to sleep standing up when it rains.  They also spoke of the courage and the endurance that women are showing in the face of this crisis.

Madame Agenor thanked Titid’s mother for giving them this “gwo garcon.”   Everyone present was thrilled to have the opportunity to say loudly and clearly in the presence of several foreign delegations that they want an end to injustice, that Jean-Bertrand Aristide must return to his homeland to continue to work with them for social peace and justice for all Haitians. Read more

A Cathartic Easter Celebration

Member of Kolonb Dor on stage at the AFD

On April 4, 2010, Easter Sunday, Kolonb Dor, the choral and dance troupe of the Aristide Foundation offered a concert at the auditorium of the AFD, attended by 1250 people.

Kolonb Dor was founded in 2008, when a group of students in the Computer School of the AFD asked to form a performing arts initiative within the Foundation.  The group has since evolved into a forty-person chorus and dance troupe, who perform at many Foundation events and produce two yearly benefit concerts – one at Christmas, one at Easter.  This year, with Easter falling less than three months after the quake, with the whole country still on its knees, the members of Kolonb Dor and everyone at the AFD, felt we had to go forward with a cultural event on Easter Sunday, which could symbolize a renewal of life and hope.

Tickets were distributed primarily to women living in refugee camps in Port-au-Prince and its environs – over 1,200 of whom gathered for an afternoon of music, dance and theater.

The emotional highlight of the afternoon came when Kolonb Dor performed a requiem for those lost in the earthquake written by Farah Juste, and first performed at a funeral mass organized by the AFD at Titanyen (the mass burial sites)  two weeks after the quake.   Kolonb Dor opened the requiem  with a dramatic on-stage re-enactment of the quake,  followed by the song itself, which offers a libera (an opening of the doors to the next world ) for all those who died–unnamed and unmarked — in the quake.  Audience members found the presentation powerful,  jarring, but also emotionally cathartic.   The piece was so powerful, in fact, it was shown in its entirety on three of Haiti’s main television stations repeatedly over the next few days.  This represents one of the first organized cultural responses to the tragedy.

A re-enactment of the quake

At the close of the program Toussaint Hilaire announced that all funds raised by the concert would go to support the Mobile Schools program of the AFD.    A passing of the hat followed – with many present contributing what they could – a gourde, five gourdes—to support their children, or their neighbors children in the Mobile Schools.  A total of 51,000 gourdes was raised (about $1500US).

We salute the young people who put this concert together.  We look forward to working with them and others to support artistic and cultural responses to the January 12 earthquake which can aid in the spiritual recovery of the country.

Elrose Revolte and Pierre Richard, directing Kolonb Dor

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