Guens Louis-Jean was born in the commune of Fort-Liberté in the town of Saillant, in the community of Gwonot. His father is a farmer and taught him the trade. With only a 6th grade education, he left the National School of Saillant for the Dominican Republic with his uncle. When he returned to Gwonot a few years later he couldn’t afford to go back to school, so he began to charge phones and sell soft drinks to try to be as independent as possible.
Economic issues were not the only challenges in Gwonot. Lack of sustainable access to clean water continued to be a challenge for Mr. Louis-Jean and his neighbors. The main water point for this community was the river called Nan matri. Mr. Louis-Jean described it as, “really far from [home], and the water is not very good since that is where animals also drink and bathe.” As a result of dirty water, many community members faced illness on a regular basis. Fortunately, in 2019 his community decided to partner with Haiti Outreach to receive a well and create a plan to manage it going forward.
During their training, the committee leaders agreed to appoint a guard to protect and care for the well. Knowing that Mr. Jean-Louis had a reputation for being a reliable and responsible worker, they knew they could trust him to do the job. Every community pays their guard a fee to take care of the well and ensure that it is open for people when they need it. This new role was not only helpful to Mr. Louis-Jean in the sense that it brought in some more reliable income, but it also allowed him the flexibility to run his business simultaneously. He shared, “Being a well keeper allows me to bring in a few dozen gourds* a month in addition to what my small business earns. This opportunity helps me a lot to keep my head above water.”
In addition to his business skills Mr. Louis-Jean has not forgotten his roots as a small farmer, just like his father. “For me, being a small farmer means respecting the soil and feeding the citizens healthy produce. It is a committed and noble profession. The small farmer is the man of the earth, the one who feeds men. This is the richness of this job. He is also someone who passes on his knowledge, ”he says.
Mr. Louis-Jean has certainly not had an easy path, but he is convinced that fate guides us. Despite the challenges that life has dealt him, he does not see himself as a victim. On the contrary, he believes that trials allow you to build yourself up and persevere in moments of difficulty.
Mr. Louis-Jean stated, “Looking for the good in every circumstance allows you to evolve and that makes life more beautiful.” He reflects on the fact that we must follow our destiny, but do so responsibly by looking out for our community and our environment. Indeed, Mr. Louis-Jean has proven to be a very hard-working and positive contributor in his community. He is very grateful for the role the leadership committee has given him, and the feeling is mutually appreciated by the members of his community who greet him every day when they come to gather their water.
*gourdes are the local currency in Haiti