In a nation where education is not free, lack of water and sanitation is the reality for nearly half of the population, and rule of man often overrides rule of law, many Haitian citizens have grown up to believe that they have very little agency in the outcome of their lives. These realities have perpetuated a victim mindset that leads to an unending vicious cycle of poverty and stagnation.
To counteract this mentality, Haiti Outreach established a training program to guide community members to see that they hold the keys to their own progress. Our model employs the Socratic method wherein our Animators* guide rural community members through dialogue and asking questions. This process allows people to recognize their own potential to solve their problems. It also has proven to move them outside of their victim mindset towards one of strength and ownership of their own development. In fact, this process helps them realize that change will not happen if they do not take responsibility themselves.
Since this methodology has proven so effective on a community level, Haiti Outreach has extended it for those who are in leadership as well. The course introduces language and tools to help them communicate well with their teams in order to lead effectively and work together to bring about positive results. This concept may seem simple in 2021 to many Americans, but in Haiti, conversations are often focused more on excuses than solutions. This new way of thinking and communicating is crucial for Haitian progress.
In the first week of June, 45 people from the commune of Cavaillon attended this training which was led by Haiti Outreach Board Member Saurel Quettan, Country Director Neil Van Dine and Community Development Director Roge Michel. Executive Director Dale Snyder was also present. A team of Haiti Outreach employees organized all the behind the scenes logistics which allowed the leaders to give their full attention to the attendees.
Attendees included the mayor and other elected government officials, representatives of DINEPA*, the Ministries of Education, Health, and the Environment, and the professional operator for the water system in Cavaillon. Additionally, there were representatives of three NGOs: Water for Life, Hope for Haiti, and Haiti Outreach. Participants ended the summit in their teams by drawing up their future vision and action plans to accomplish those goals.
Many attendees expressed immense gratitude for this opportunity. One person exclaimed, “This is the best training I have ever attended!” Another expressed, “We need to bring this to our entire team so that we can be much more effective!” Not only was there verbal recognition of the value of this endeavor, attendees demonstrated their appreciation by their presence which was greater than 90% for all three days of the course. Such an attendance rate may seem trite in other countries, but in a nation like Haiti where people are required to prioritize their daily basic needs, attendance at such a high rate is a strong statement of the value they placed on acquiring these skills for themselves and their country.
We are deeply grateful to HANWASH and the Rotary Clubs of Les Cayes, Haiti and Lake Charles, Louisiana, for creating the Rotary Global Grant that permitted us to implement this initiative.
The response at this training was phenomenal, and we are just getting started! Haiti Outreach is working to make the course even more effective, as well as making it available as open-source material. This plan is in direct alignment with our goal to scale up our proven model across the communities that we work with in Haiti, then across the entire country, and eventually world-wide.
*Animator: Community Leader/ Instructor
*DINEPA: the division of the nation government responsible for potable water and sanitation
*professional operator runs the water system in Cavaillon
*NGOs: non-governmental organizations