Reflections on returning to Haiti

Earlier this year, I wrote about returning to Haiti after 5 years and for the first time since the earthquake. I had prepared myself to be overwhelmed by what we’d see, and what we found was hard to witness – the destroyed buildings and people still living in tent cities.

But we also found the people of Haiti are as strong and resilient as ever, and full of hope for a brighter future. We were deeply inspired.

Now, as I head to Port-au-Prince and then to Cap-Haitien on the north coast to meet up with Siiri, I’m contemplating what lies ahead. We’ve just launched Prosperity Catalyst, our nonprofit devoted to providing training and support to women entrepreneurs. Siiri – making her third trip this year – has built an incredibly strong network of partnerships on the ground. And after nearly a year of planning, our vision for a candle export business owned and operated by Haitian women officially enters stage one.

Sitting here on the plane less than an hour away, I’m incredibly excited. I’m traveling with our longtime supporter and valued Board member Linda. The purpose of our trip is multifold. First, to finalize arrangements with our partners – two Haitian organizations dedicated to providing support and entrepreneurship training to women.

Then we meet with the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund to discuss a funding proposal, connect with our source for locally produced beeswax (clarified naturally with solar extractors – I love that part!), visit site locations, and participate in the opening of a new business park where a number of U.S. and Haitian dignitaries and celebrities will be in attendance . . .  including Bill Clinton, Haitian President Michel Martelly, Donna Karan, Sean Penn and many more.

We’ll also see about climbing to the Citadel, an imposing fortress built on top of a mountain in 1820. You can see the Citadel from miles away — it’s a powerful symbol of Haiti’s history. Of course, it’s crucial that we recognize and understand Haiti’s past, but here at Prosperity Candle & Catalyst, we are decidedly focused on the future.

And in Haiti, with women entrepreneurs taking leadership roles in the economy, that future is very bright.

Photo source: Carolina Azevedo, UNDP 

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