Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Franzie Jeanlouis. I’m an American Life Coach-Teacher-Singer-Songwriter who’s been living in Toulouse, on and off, for the past sixteen years.
How did you get interested in Haiti? What is your connection?
My parents are both Haitian. Though they immigrated to the U.S. in the late 60’s, they have been involved with the preservation of Haitian Culture since then and went on to participate in Haitian politics as of the 80’s. Their involvement with Haiti has given me a front seat to the conflicts that exist on the island. It has, therefore, became second nature for me to be concerned about and active in improving Haiti’s future.
What is the Association for Haiti, and was it started after the natural disaster or before?
For the past two years, I have been sponsoring a child at an orphanage. I was content with that arrangement until the earthquake on January 12, when I realized that the child may have died. Luckily, Pierre-Cesar, nor any of the other children at the Orphanage (Fondation d’Enfants d’Haiti) were hurt. Within a few days I decided that I needed to do more – to become more active rather than to continue to passively give money. So I created H.E.L.P. (Haiti Evolution Liberation Prospérité) to permit myself and others to get truly involved by going to Haiti and aiding in the reconstruction effort.
Can you describe your website for me? When was it founded, what are its main functions and who reads it?
H.E.L.P. is not only involved in financing education in Haiti, it is committed to creating awareness of Haitian culture in the Greater Toulouse area, so the blog is both to keep people informed of our activities and to create accountability. Although we are not a large association, we want our members, and anyone one else who is interested in Haiti’s future, to be able to track our progress.
How are you involved in clean-up efforts in Haiti? Are you connected to people on the ground there?
I will be going to Haiti this summer to teach and help out at the orphanage I mentioned earlier. I will also be visiting the University of Quisqueya, that was severely damaged, in order to meet the students towards whom our fund raising efforts have been geared. I hope that the contacts that I have on the island will permit me to access the survivor camps, so that I can be of some help.
Do you work on poverty and education issues?
In being involved with Haiti there is no way to avoid either of these issues. So yes, I do.
Do you have connections to the USA and the American expatriate community in France? in Haiti?
How can the average person help out the efforts in Haiti?
I think there are many things an ‘average person’ can do. Just to name a few, one can ask to have a H.E.L.P-Haitian Awareness Workshop hosted in their neighborhood, at the local school, MJC, etc. One can join H.E.L.P. to take part in our events (concerts, storytelling, music workshop, travelling to Haiti to aid in the reconstruction effort), one can send school supplies through various NGOs, one can sponsor a child through the association Rencontre Adoption, or one can merely pray if one is comfortable with that.
What are future plans for your association and for your blog regarding Haiti? Do you work with other organizations?
My aim this summer, in addition to participating in the ‘clean-up effort’ is to establish a long-lasting working relationship with the orphanage, the University of Quisqueya and two other associations in Port-au-Prince so that H.E.L.P. can remain involved in helping Haitian children to get a proper education -to fight against illiteracy and ignorance, hence poverty. I want to stay connected to Haiti in an active manner, so I hope that my humanitarian trip this summer will the beginning of a series of trips for our H.E.L.P members in order for us to be actively involved in Haiti’s future. But in order to stay involved, we must continue to raise funds and increase awareness. That’s why I work closely with Rencontre Adoption, the association through which I sponsor Pierre-Cesar who is living at The Fondation des Enfants D’Haiti, and with Fund’ Art, an association that aids us in organizing our fundraising concerts.
Has the situation improved at all in Haiti or has the media just forgotten it?
I don’t think that the media has forgotten Haiti but it has moved on to the next “hot topic”. Yet according to some news sources and from reports I’ve gotten from people in Haiti, the reconstruction effort isn’t really underway. We can merely call it a clean-up/relocation effort for the time being. Logistics seem to be a problem for the Haitian authorities, so people who are really in need of the vital basics are still suffering. Although H.E.L.P. cannot make the fundamental changes that are necessary for Haiti to become a prosperous country overnight, we do our best to keep Haiti from being forgotten and to aid Haitian children (even if it’s merely a handful) aspire to a better life. I hope to continue with the H.E.L.P.- Haitian Awareness Workshops in the fall and to continue performing the solidarity song I wrote called Plen Gout Dlo. Why? In order to keep Haiti in people’s minds.
What, in your opinion, is the biggest challenge facing Haiti today? In the long-term? Does its government help or hamper efforts?
I can’t fully answer that question without writing a dissertation, but in my opinion the biggest challenges facing Haiti are the lack of infrastructure, employment, leadership and the capacity to find an normal situation (drastic poverty and illiteracy, etc.) for a normal and acceptable way of life. In the long-term it will be the Haitian people who will need to change of their habits in order to put better practices into place, and that is a mammoth-sized challenge. As for the government, considering the state of Haiti before the earthquake, in regards to proper leadership, I think much is left to be desired. I adamantly believe that it is time for Haitian officials to get their act together because the reconstruction effort may just become re-colonization if Haiti can’t become an autonomous nation.