In this interconnected age, we can see and experience new parts of the world with a simple click of a button. We can watch a video or read a story about someone halfway around the globe, and gain insights into his or her life. Haiti is a country full of proud and resilient people, with enough stories to fill libraries, occupy channels and steal hearts. I recently had the fortunate opportunity to visit the country and bring a few of these stories home.
It was my first time in the country and I traveled down to visit and film economic development projects that the Clinton Foundation is helping to develop. My colleague Sabine was interviewing the pastor at a school tucked away on the ocean side of the crowded neighborhood of Cite Soleil. As we turned off of the main road, Sabine, who is Haitian-American, said, “Cite Soleil is really one of those places people drive by and look at. Outsiders don’t have much reason to go in.”
But as we neared the gates of the school, it became obvious that this is changing. The school, which serves over 300 children ages 3 to 18, is an impressive campus. There are four brightly painted buildings complete with solar roofs, a kitchen and outdoor seating area for the kids to enjoy a healthy meal, a garden where they are employing young adults from the neighborhood to tend to the vegetables, and a backyard playground where the pastor says he often sits with tears filling his eyes as he listens to the children’s laughter. It was when he was explaining all of these amazing services beyond education, that the school is able to provide, that caused a fiery, palpable passion, as he spoke to Sabine and me.
The pastor has lived in Cite Soleil for 38 years and has seen it become one of Haiti’s poorest areas. Yet he has remained intensely committed to serving his community, and today is overflowing with pride that he was able to build this beacon of hope—a shining light that speaks to the importance of individuals like the pastor who are unwilling to accept that change is impossible.
There are stories of such hope all over Haiti, as I saw in my short trip. I visited a co-op that will be selling bath and body products in international markets, a lime nursery where men and women are experimenting on the best growing conditions for the trees, a community development center offering health and education services in an area that was entirely uprooted into tent cities after the earthquake, an artisan enterprise offering daycare and literacy programs to working mothers and fathers, and a soon-to-open Marriott hotel with staff who are elated to have the opportunity to show their future guests the vibrant Haitian culture.
Behind all of the projects I visited is a pronounced and common thread—committed people who are bursting with pride for their country. Haiti has experienced challenges, but the people I met, and so many like them, will not give up. The future is theirs to build, and the stories they tell are ones we should all look to for inspiration.
For more on the Clinton Foundation's work in Haiti visit haiti.clintonfoundation.org