Started From the Bottom...?
It was just an idea I had; to try and offer students simple and sustainable afterschool activities. Whats more sustainable than the local population? The solution seemed simple: Get locals with a certain talent, skill, or knowledge to share said information to the benefit of local youth on a minimum of a bi weekly basis. This idea bore the beginning of Bisou Bisou Haiti, a non profit organization providing educational, recreational and civic engagement opportunities to talented students. To find out more, visit here: Bisoubisouhaiti.org.
The first class ever, was this crochet class. Seven girls in Cite Soliel for 6 months. We started in a wooden shed, provided to us by a local organization which sponsors sports for youth in the area. Three days a week, afterschool, parents and the instructor would meet at a predetermined location, and the instructor (Joyeuse) would escort students to the workshop.
People all around the neighborhood knew of Joyeuse because of her talent, she was excellent with crochet. She sold items at fairs and marketplaces all around Port au Prince. I had to scout out three days before I had finally found her and convinced her to join me. She was exctied to work with these girls and share what she had learned with them. She explained to me how important it was that she had a skill and an alternative outlet for her both her frustrations and creativity. We bonded over mutual respect for one another as we planned out our program for the following six months.
During this time, more and more students became aware of our program and wanted to join. WE had to cap it off at ten for lack of materials and to ensure that each student would receive quality instruction. At the end of the six months, each student was able to produce their own hats, purses and set of infant clothing. Students also each received a crochet needle and were encouraged to continue practicing to expand their skills. By that time, we had secured a location in a different city and decided to pursue programs there.
Joyuese continued to give crochet lessons, and noticed that some students were more advanced than others. We had deicded to work extra with those students to cultivate their skills and eventually find a way to sell what was being produced. With that, and parent consent ofcourse, we began this project.
Ofcourse, I eventually found that it was best to target university students as instructional mentors for these students, but thats a story for another day. Either way, in order for the programs to be sustainable, we had to promote the interests of the local population.
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