To give to Prosjekt Haiti or for more information, please visit their website.
Ingvill and Edwin have been married for 20 years. She is a tall, blond, tough Norwegian, who talks passionately about the nonprofit/humanitarian organization they founded, Prosjekt Haiti. Edwin is an ardent advocate for change in his Native Haiti. Growing up in the slums of Port Au Prince, he went on to military school in Ecuador, where he met Ingvill. Splitting their time between Norway and Haiti, the couple has run the non-profit for 17 years.
Both Ingvill and Edwin laugh easily and often communicate their love for the country of Haiti. Prosjekt Haiti is a partner with LEAF International, a part of LEAF Community Arts, where I work as a teaching artist. Ingvill and Edwin were our hosts for the trip and we were able to see the country through the lens of their work; advocating for children, creating schools, and empowering communities and women.
My trip to Haiti was 8 days (next trip will definitely be longer!)
We began the trip with two days in the capital of Port Au Prince, a city of 2 million people. Built into the mountains, Port Au Prince is a dizzying amalgamation of colors and sounds laid out over a labyrinth of curvy streets with an overwhelming amount of traffic. The city amplifies the magnitude of the division between rich and poor in Haiti, wealthy families living in the hills with access to western grocery stores, restaurants and more. In contradiction, many of the city's residents live in poverty, creating a secondary economic marketplace of stalls with clothing, food, household goods and more.
The city emphasized the need for change in the country, and the importance of Prosjekt Hait’s work, especially education for children and women, that will empower them to create different economic circumstances. I loved the city, I was inspired and amazed by the self-sufficiency and spirit of the people. I found the energy of the city and the people to be compelling, exhilarating and an affirmation of humanity.
On Sunday we travelled from the chaotic city to the peaceful town of Saint Louis de Sud, three hours to the south. Saint Louis de Sud is a small town with mountains to the north and the sea to the south. We arrived at Le Petit Trolle, the school started by Prosjekt Haiti. Built onto a hill, next to a graveyard and just above the town, the school has school buildings, a kitchen, garden and a guesthouse/community center that is under construction. The guest house became our home, where we slept simply under mosquito nets and spent evenings and early mornings on the rooftop, which offered a breathtaking view of the sea.
Upon arrival Nina (Ingvill’s cousin, an amazing energetic woman who is on the board of Prosjekt Haiti) walked us to the small town, which was decorated by posters from the recent mayoral election. Much to our delight, we were greeted by Edwin’s face, on billboards, posters and flags hung about the town. He had just won the election to be mayor of the town.
Luckily for us, Edwin’s swearing in ceremony was that Monday. Monday morning was the beginning of the summer camp at the school and simultaneously, the preparations for the swearing in. As children arrived for the camp, so did men in their best suits.
After much preparations, we drove from Saint Louis de Sud to a neighboring town where the swearing in was to be held. Edwin had arranged for the people of the town to be transported there as well in buses. Women and men of all ages came in their best dressed. I was moved when Edwin insisted that men give up their seats on the temperature controlled bus to the older women of the town.
Upon arrival the (very) crowded courthouse, we waited for the ceremony to begin. Nothing is quite as fascinating as watching a ceremony in a language you can’t understand, I picked up bit and pieces in French, but otherwise was immersed in the proceedings crowd, reporters and systems.
It was incredibly moving to see the support that Edwin got from the town’s population. Unlike many politicians, who come from wealthy families, Edwin is of the people, grew up like them and already has a history of creating positive change through Prosjekt Haiti.
I was moved to tears in seeing the populous celebrate during his speech and the excitement, expressed through dancing, singing and cheers as we returned to the town. As we drove into town there was a crowd of dancers and local RaRa bands. It made me hopeful for not only this town and Haiti, but that there is still room in the world for positive, real change.
After the excitement of Monday, we spent the rest of the week immersed in the summer camp at Le Petit Trolle. The sun rises early in Haiti and so do the people. I often was awake by 5:30am and the camp was already bustling. The men and women who work there were already hard at work and we had the luxury of time to read, eat breakfast and shower.
At 9am, the children arrived for summer camp. Each day they raise the Haitian and Norwegian flags with a singing of each country’s anthem. The children then divided into groups, each going to a different class. I was lucky enough to lead the dance class. Other classes included sports (volleyball and soccer), mathematics, english and more.
In the dance class, I was met with shy glances and the students were very attentive. After beginning to dance, I was always happy to see smiles and excitement. In Asheville, through LEAF, I teach as class of young people who are from the Marshall Islands and Micronesia. They have taught me the hula, a native dance of other tropical islands. The Haitian students took so quickly to the dance and did an excellent job. We also did hip hop, tutting and bhangra dance.
After class, the kids got an hour of free time. It is inspiring to see the universal delight of children at play. Even with language barriers, I, along with the other volunteers were able to join in on jump rope, catch, frisbee and more. After the free time, there was a large circle of the whole camp, where we played games, danced and sang.
I am always awed around children, at the universality of joy, acceptance of others and curiosity. These children were wide open, and there was so much joy and laughter. Prosjekt Haiti also brought in teenagers to run the summer camp. Part of their youth leadership team, these young adults live in Port Au Prince. We were able to teach with them and also swim and go to the beach. They are such beautiful examples of young adults, I am excited to see where they will go in the world.
Upon returning home, the most definitive I feelings I have are: 1. To stay connected. To the people, to the culture and to the gifts I was given in my trip. And, 2. To make change in my life. To make sure I am giving, to make sure I am honoring other people and to make sure I am living simply.
As I return home, I am grateful for social media as it allows for easy connection to my new friends in Haiti. I am honored and reminded of the sweetness of their culture as I receive messages from my friends. An example “Dear Lisa, I miss you so much. I will hold you in my heart. Please come visit again soon.”
For more information about Prosjekt Haiti please visit their website. For more information or to volunteer, please email Ingvill.
For more information about LEAF Community Arts and their international program, LEAF International, please visit their website.
For more information about me and Studio Zahiya, and our upcoming work with Prosjekt Haiti, please visit our website.
Prosjekt Haiti is a Norwegian/Haitian organization that has worked in Haiti since 2000. Our first project was the elementary school Petit Troll in Port au Prince. The organization has expended over the years, and is now running a number of projects both in Port au Prince and in the village of St. Louis du Sud in the south of Haiti.
Prosjekt Haiti’s goal is to contribute to a better future for the people associated with our projects, and for Haiti as a nation. We believe that the best way of doing this is to provide people with knowledge and skills that enable them to improve their own situation. Prosjekt Haiti therefore focuses on education, capacity building and value creation.
Approximately 400 children receive their primary education through Prosjekt Haiti’s two schools. In addition, the students can participate in activities like youth club, sports club, summer school and seminars. Manman Troll focuses on competence building and vocational training for women. In addition, we regularly have various ad hoc projects and campaigns in cooperation with interesting partners.
Prosjekt Haiti is funded through donations from private donors, both through a sponsor program and through one-time gifts. In addition, we receive funding from Norad for some projects. Most of our activity in Norway is based on volunteer work, which contributes to keeping the administration costs low. In Haiti, we have approximately 50 employees in various positions. It is important for Prosjekt Haiti that the different projects are run by local resources who feel ownership to Prosjekt Haiti.
Pictures from the journey: