From Boston to Haiti – A Barr Fellows Learning Journey

In January, 2012, a group of twelve Barr Fellows spent a week together in Haiti, during what was also the two-year anniversary of Haiti's devastating 2010 earthquake. I had the opportunity to join them to help document the trip...

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 12 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 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 people...to the United Nations compound for a conversation with Heiner Rosendal, the UN’s Head of Civil Affairs.

...to Hotel Villa Ban-Yen, a mountain-top eco-lodge, where the peasant association, Association des Paysans de Vallue, is improving lives through education, health care, and micro-enterprise.

…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.

…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.

…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.

…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 a Class of 2009 Fellow, shared her thoughts and pictures in CAYL’s January newsletter. Linda Nathan, founding headmaster of the Boston Arts Academy and Class of 2007 Fellow, posted this piece on her school and personal blog.

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Stefan Lanfer

Stefan Lanfer

Director of Communications