It was as if the Haitian Diaspora had taken over Brooklyn Borough Hall, at least for the evening of Jan. 10 when at times, those attending one of the two different Haitian events happening simultaneously, co-mingled in the Hall’s staircase-framed marble lobby.
An interfaith gathering organized by International Humanitarian Outreach Ministries (IHOM, Inc), for an evening of hope, healing and remembrance marking the Haitian earthquake’s third anniversary, began with a reception. Representatives from the faith community, HALEFO, and a wide swath from the Haitian professional and political community greeted each other before the ceremonial part of the evening took place in the formal court chambers upstairs.
Among those in attendance was a former president of Haiti, the 48th. The first woman in Haitian history to hold that office, Ertha Pascal-Trouillot, provisional President of Haiti from March 1990 to early February 1991, visiting from Haiti, paid tribute along with local diplomats and metro-New York denizens.
Meanwhile, Community2Community(C2C), with representatives from numerous Brooklyn community organizations at info tables circling the main floor multi-media room, held a different kind of commemorative event. A kind of town hall celebrated with a progress report: Three Years Later, Building Forward Together.
C2C was founded and is directed by Marie-Yolaine Eusebe who emigrated from Haiti when she was five years old. Following the earthquake, Eusebe quit her job as a marketing executive at American Express to work for significant change in Haiti, targeting her father’s home town area of Petit Goave. Initially she focused on access to drinkable water–C2C’s first project, a complete water system in Piton Vallue, Petit Goâve, utilizing a team of local volunteers.
Subsequently, C2C also distributed 25,000 aqua tabs for water purification and provided a one-day training for cholera prevention.
An informative video shown at the Boro Hall event illustrated how this non-profit service organization works on the ground, partnering with local residents. Additionally, now there are 15 latrines, when before C2C, there were none.
Marie-Yolaine is especially conscious to get together to meet different partners, find out who is working on the ground in order to better engage with each other. “It’s the people that are keeping us in Haïti.” Both the Diaspora and in the homeland.
C2C is a bridge. Eusebe notes, “Folks approach us all the time to help out in different areas,” she says. “Some are part of the Haitian Diaspora and are interested in going back home, or they’ve never been ‘home’ and aren’t sure how to embark on such a journey.”
While concentrating on important work in Haiti, C2C creates community and support through local outreach like the Change04Change program that engages students from local public and charter schools, where they learn about the culture of Haïti and involve themselves in creative fund-raising to rebuild a school in Petit Goave.
At the “Building Forward Together” event, teachers from The Bilingual Center, P.S. 189, on East New York Avenue, presented a check for $2000 from their recent fundraising efforts, mostly small donations from their students.
The Haitian jazz band Mozayik entertained at the start of the evening. Toward the event’s end, a portion of the school band from charter school Kipp AMP Academy– another Change02Change partner–displayed their jazz chops and delighted attendees.