From Boston to Haiti – A Barr Fellows Learning Journey

Posted by Stefan Lanfer

The Barr Fellowship is a recognition of extraordinary nonprofit leaders working in Boston. It is also an investment in their learning and connection with each other – often through travel together outside the city. In January, 2012, a group of twelve Barr Fellows, including representatives from each class, took part in one such trip to Haiti. I had the opportunity to join them and to help document the trip through images, video, and now this post.

As with trips in years past to New Orleans, Louisiana, or Chiapas, Mexico, this one was designed to give Fellows opportunities to immerse themselves in contexts of scarce resources and great challenges, where they could meet and connect with leaders of local and international groups working in various ways to bring positive change. Over a week that included the two-year anniversary of the 2010 earthquake, our itinerary exposed us to the full spectrum of life as it is now lived in Haiti..

...from the Karibe Hotel in the lovely Pétionville neighborhood of Port au Prince, which stood across a valley from tents and concrete blocks of homes clinging to steep, rubble-strewn hills...through Port au Prince proper, past the devastated Presidential Palace, and the tented camps – still home to over half a million the United Nations compound for a conversation with Heiner Rosendal, the UN's Head of Civil Affairs.

Presidential Palace, Port au Prince, Haiti Hotel Villa Ban-Yen, a mountain-top eco-lodge, where the peasant association, Association des Paysans de Vallueis improving lives through education, health care, and micro-enterprise.

Meeting with the youth of APV

…to the bustling charcoal market in Archaie, which is a central hub of a trade that has reduced Haiti’s forest cover to a paltry, and ecologically unsustainable 2% - a trade whose participants are literally robbing from their own future to eke out a meager living; and the reason why satellite images of the single island of Hispaniola show a lush, green Dominican Republic on one side, and a barren, brown, denuded Haiti on the other.

The Charcoal Market, Achaie, Haiti

…to the idyllic Moulin Sur Mer, a Haitian family owned beach resort on the grounds of what was once a sugar plantation - a past preserved and on display in its museum.

The plantation museum at Mulin Sur Mer, Haiti

…to the small village of Corail, where the flag of an independent Haiti was first raised, and a small nonprofit called Hope on a String is working to foster community and economic development through music in a town without electricity, running water, or paved roads.

Hope on a String, Corail, Haiti

…to much more than I can do justice to here. 

Yet, thankfully, two Fellows have published their reflections (and more images) from the week.

Valora Washington, President and Founder of the CAYL Institute and Class of 2009 Fellow, shared her thoughts and pictures in CAYL’s January newsletter

Linda Nathan, Headmaster of the Boston Arts Academy and member of the 2007 Class, posted this piece on her school and personal blog. 

The author on assignment in Corail, Haiti

Date Posted: April 10, 2012
Topics: barr fellows, haiti, learning journey