I had just graduated with a bachelor in psychology from NYU when I received some unexpected news. On May 24th Fond Verrettes, a southwest community in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, just 2 hrs from where I was born, with a population of just over 50,000 suffered a natural disaster that left the whole community devastated. In the middle of the night as the villagers slept water, a rare commodity, literally out of nowhere (well maybe the under the mountains) inundated the area washing away homes, lives, and memories. I was desperate to visit this community, the very community that my father, Montaigu Cantave, a former minister of agriculture, had been working with for almost 30 yrs. He had extensive ties to the community as well as a substantial amount of land. I flew to Haiti that July but was not able to visit Fonds Verrettes. Fond Verrettes required preparation to go there and I was visiting for only one week. Not to mention Dad was still questioning whether I was physically, emotionally, and psychologically prepared to witness what he called the unimaginable; that in the 21st century there could be such misery. So we planned that I would return in Dec at which time he would introduce me to Bois Tombe. The aftermath that I witnessed once we arrived was heart breaking…it was 7 months later and nothing had been done since the disaster, by anyone to help the people rebuild their lives. I felt a burning desire to do something to assist these people, my people! And so I told my father that this is where I would begin my project; where I will put all that I had learned into action; and so in March of 2005 “Help Hayti” my project was created.
Help Hayti’s vision is to integrate actions to permanently reinvigorate the social, economic, and physical equilibrium of Haiti. With that vision so defined, Help Hayti in collaboration with HAACP, its sister organization that I helped to establish in Haiti in 2007, whose mission is to provide quality primary education and follow-along services to disadvantaged children in remote parts of Haiti developed the Adopt-A-Community project.
Change being the foremost objective in this equation it is also the most difficult of all to accomplish. Help Hayti, however, is about fostering developmental change that will produce lasting results.
With a thorough understanding of the mission behind me and this vision before me I set out to forge strategic partnerships and recruit key personnel. I was introduced to Pierre-Michelle Kalil in the spring of 2006, and she had proven to be an exceptional fundraiser. In the time span of about a year of making her introduction she had Sr Pelayo, a representative of Andalucia Por Un Mundo Nueve, a NGO from Spain, pay Fond Verrettes an unofficial visit. By January of 2008 Sr Pelayo’s organization honored HAACP with its first bonified grant in the sum of $17,000 which made it possible for us to build a 4-rm school (picture). In the 3 years since partnering with Michelle she has helped to raise approximately 100,000, included in that was a generous in-kind gift in the form of a brand new Toyota pick-up truck. Through the continued efforts of Sr Pelayo and Pierre Michelle who tirelessly worked on raising needed funds we have been recipient of partial funding to pay the teachers’ salary for the last 2 yrs, compliments of another NGO in Spain, Haiti Siglo XXI. In the course of our partnership Michelle has ventured to found her own organization, Friends of Haiti.
And now you are reading this page because the forces of nature have gathered you here with me so that I could show you where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going…but most importantly… to highlight the steps we could to take to accomplish such a challenging task. In this age of globalization we can all play a constructive role contributing to the MDGs. With Haiti being just a couple of hours away from the shores of Florida, it is crucial as well as wise that we identify this underdeveloped land as a starting point to effect some real changes or improvements into the lives of the underprivileged.
“A people’s economic success and social peace will be proportional to the quantity and quality of their human capital"--Linda Chang
The biggest challenge in all of this I must say is identifying the right individuals with the integrity of a true humanitarian, who thoroughly adheres to the mission set forth, and who are endlessly committed to achieving those objectives. To my delight I was blessed meeting those few individuals; Meet...