Updates on our projects

Updates on our projects

We just returned from Haiti with a lot of exciting updates, including one very powerful success story about the unpredictable impact of a rainwater collection tank…


During our last visit to Haiti, we visited a rainwater collection system we helped construct in the community of Nan Riske in 2012. When we arrived, we learned some very exciting news. Not only is the facility still running well, thanks to the strong and consistent management of the local community group, but several other exciting activities have come out of the water facility’s success.

Using excess rainwater collected in the system’s tanks, the community has been able to plant several community gardens, which are growing such vegetables as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and beans. But, what was even more extraordinary was that we learned that the system has brought in enough money to start a savings and lending circle. The leaders of the community group that manage the water facility, GPDN (Groupe Paysan de Développement Nan Riske), were able to take a portion of the money collected from residents when they collect water for personal use and combine it with money from a group of residents that wanted to create a savings and lending opportunity in the community.


The lending circle now has 35 borrowers and a fund of almost $4,000 US dollars. Imagine turning 5 gourdes (the equivalent of 8 cents in US$), which is what is collected from residents for every two buckets of water they take from the system, and turning it into what is now a community fund of almost US$4,000!


Those are the unplanned, unpredictable successes (consequences) of strong community development, of a development project that is chosen, and truly owned and entirely managed by the local community. An honest and incredibly exciting example of sustainable development.


A new solar lighting project with Parsons School of Design

Building on the success of our solar street lamp installations in 2016 and 2017, we will be partnering with Parsons School of Design to implement a new solar lighting project. We will be working once again with professor and professional lighting designer Chad Groshart, a group of Parsons graduate students, several U.S. solar energy and lighting companies, and a group of local leaders on La Gonave to light up a key location on the island.


The new installation will take place in May, in the town of Anse-a-Galets, la Gonave’s most populated town and main port of entry. We are in the process of working with the local mayor to select the location where the installation will take place. Mayor Ernso Louissaint got a chance to visit Gran Sous and see the solar street lamps that were installed by APDAG. He was impressed with the project and proposed that similar installations be done across the commune, in all six communal sections of Anse-a-Galets. He followed up with Professor Groshart, and the two groups are now in discussions about this year’s installation site/s.


The first potential project involves Anse-a-Galet’s largest public square. It was recently renovated, but in order to make it available for residents at night, a working lighting system needs to be set up. When lit, the square will become a space where residents will be able to visit 24/7, students will be able to study after dark, and more merchants will be able to start small businesses and sell their goods. It will also be used for public gatherings and large town celebrations. With a solid lighting design and reliable solar energy, the square will be able to reach its full potential.

The second potential site involves a new walkway that is currently under construction at the wharf in Anse-a-Galets. The idea is to separate visitors and passengers arriving to the island by boat from the overwhelming loading and unloading of products and goods that have been shipped to the island. When lit, the walkway will bid visitors to the island a warm welcome, and allow passengers safer travel regardless of the time they are arriving to or departing from the island. La Gonave needs a sustainable source of energy and lighting, and we are trying to help the mayor bring such opportunities to the island.

“The realization of such a project will, to name just a few, promote the creation and growth of small businesses, allow more students the chance to study at night, and for more people to engage in recreational activities.”  - Mayor Ernso Louissaint


In the past two years, this project has been supported by generous donors such as Atelier Ten Foundation, USAI Lighting, Bartco Lighting, Lumenwerx, Mercury Lighting, and several others. If you are interested in getting involved in this year’s solar lighting initiative, please contact us at info@rootsofdevelopment.org.


Important leadership workshops to take place on La Gonave in March

In March, we will be implementing a series of workshops aimed at strengthening the capacity of local leaders and government authorities on the island of La Gonave, in partnership with CLE-Haiti, the Haitian Center for Leadership and Excellence. With the financial support of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), CLE has been carrying out what they call Leadership Development Certificate Programs in the north of Haitiand will now be bringing that same program to La Gonave.


The workshops will begin with a conversation on development, specfically the definitions of sustainable and community-driven development. Participants will be asked to reflect on and share their knowledge of the island’s development history. Community resources will be mapped out and development priorities will begin to be identified. They will focus on strategies for addressing their priorities, which include citizen participation, developing partnerships, the mobilization of resources, and ensuring equal participation within the community.

“Organizational capacity building is both an end in itself and a means for increasing the power of citizens and communities.” CLÉ Haiti 


Participants will carry out exercises that include comparing municipal budgets, analyzing existing projects, and mapping local organizations and institutions. The goal is for leaders to strengthen their capacity in networking and communications, strategic planning and team management, and financial management and governance. At the end of the series, one day will be dedicated specifically to women’s leadership, and will include only female leaders from the island.


These workshops reinforce the skills of individual participants who then go back to the institutions they represent and share those skills, in order to increase their ability to improve living conditions in their communities. We are working with the materials provided to us last year by Georgetown University to come up with a set of indicators we will use to measure both the short-term and long-term impacts of these workshops. Stay tuned for more!

The Planning Phase for the Communal Development Plan is complete!


During our last trip to Haiti, we were able to sit with the team and finalize once and for all the plan and budget for the Communal Development Plan (CDP) project. We then traveled to La Gonave to present everything to Mayor Ernso Louissaint and one of the deputy mayors. We went over every line item in the budget, how the money would be spent and who would be managing what. We discussed each actor’s role and responsibilities, and went over the proposed timeline for implementation. Everyone is now up to speed and onboard with all the details.


We then divided up next steps, based on each person’s role within the project. The Mayor will be formally announcing, to the population and the appropriate government authorities, his intention to create an official communal development plan for the commune. He will also start the process to request the funds available in the Haitian Ministry of Planning (Ministère de la Planification et de la Coopération Externe) for such a project. Roots’ Field Director, Lineda Paul, and CEFCAD’s Philippe Fils-Aime have begun working on the indicators that will be used to monitor progress and measure the impact of the project. They are organizing and developing indicators to capture baseline data and others that will help measure changes (the impacts of the project) in the short, medium, and long-term.


Roots’ Executive Director, Chad Bissonnette, will be leading the efforts to secure the rest of the funding needed to implement the project. If you are interested in learning more or supporting this project, let us know.

Project Summary: We are working with our partner CEFCAD (Centre de Formation Citoyenne et d’Appui au Développement) and the Mayor of Anse-a-Galets to bring together leaders of local government and civil society on La Gonave and elaborate an official Communal Development Plan for the commune of Anse-a-Galets.


The strategic development plan will help harmonize the needs and priorities of the population, with the ultimate goal of helping local government officials and the local population be better equipped to manage their own development efforts.


The project will focus on strengthening knowledge and skills related to data collection, project management, budgeting and governance skills. It will help gather and distribute more information about the island (La Gonave), and create an opportunity for numerous diverse representatives from the municipality to come together and work on a common goal.

In the end, the Plan will serve as a guide for the development of the municipality and as a tool to attract partners and investors who can help realize the municipality’s development goals.

Our 6th Annual CT Dance Party & Fundraiser 

For those of you in Connecticut and the surrounding area, our 6th Annual CT Dance Party (Fundraiser) will take place on Saturday, March 24th at 6pm at the Willimantic Elks Lodge.


Join us to celebrate the beginning of spring, while supporting the work of Roots of Development. Come out and enjoy live music with the Band Steppin’ Out, a cash bar, a big raffle and lots of fun, all with a special theme…BLING! So come dressed in your most flashy clothing and shiny (fake) jewelry. The more over-the-top the better!


Haitian art will be available for purchase. Plus, you can bring your own snacks (though no personal beverages allowed). Get your tickets in advance for only $25 by contacting Linda at (860) 428-2097 or bewell444@gmail.com. Tables can be reserved for groups of 8-10 people as well. Adults only event (21+).


Tickets will be available at the door for $30, but remember space is limited. The event has sold out the past two years!


All proceeds support Roots of Development.

Letter in response to President Trump’s comments on Haiti



The news of what President Trump said about Haiti and several other countries yesterday broke while my fiancé and I were watching the news together. My fiancé was born in Haiti and I have worked there, as Roots of Development’s Executive Director, for the past 12 years. We sat there watching as people screamed at each other about Haiti, screamed about its challenges and its history, screamed about injustice and ignorance, and about the President’s remarks, with some of course defending his remarks. We sat in silence for over an hour watching as the news unfolded and our emotions built up. We were trying to manage them as rage mixed with heartache, and frustration mixed with embarrassment, until we both found ourselves crying.


Here we were, once again, watching a country we love and know so well, who has taught us the very meaning of strength, courage, and sacrifice, being trashed and spoken about by strangers…unable to defend itself. We knew that the President’s words would be faced with fierce criticism, but we also knew that it was too late, he had said them, and everyone was now talking about it. No matter what, the words would stick and the misunderstanding, ignorance, and stereotypes that exist about Haiti would be repeated and unconsciously reinforced.


There are essays and books that can articulate much better than I, the hundreds of reasons why Haiti faces the challenges it does, why the stereotypes about Haiti exist, or what Haiti’s contributions have been to the world. What I can tell you, without reservation or ambiguity, is that Haiti is one of the most extraordinary places I have ever been. It has an extremely powerful history, a unique and rich culture, incredibly beautiful and diverse landscapes, and some of the strongest, most determined people I have ever met in my life. It is Haiti and the people of Haiti that have taught me and so many others from around the world the value of life, what courage and perseverance look like, and what hope and sacrifice truly mean.


The President’s words are inappropriate, ignorant, and embarrassing, but more importantly they are wrong. I have led Roots of Development’s work in Haiti for over 12 years, working side by side with communities in one of the most rural and isolated parts of the country. There is hope and huge opportunity in Haiti. There is will and cooperation. Our Haitian friends and partners, in and out of Haiti, love their country and are enthusiastic and determined to strengthen their communities and their country. While many of our Haitian brothers and sisters wake up to significant challenges every day, they certainly don’t see their country as a “shithole”, and neither do we.


Roots of Development is founded on the conviction that marginalized populations have the capacity to manage their own development and determine their own future if and when they face the opportunity to break free of the constraints of history and systems of oppression. Join us in rejecting the President’s ignorance and spreading the truth about Haiti and all the other countries facing this unprovoked and reckless persecution. Help turn this current state of confusion, outrage and frustration into a productive conversation that changes the narrative about Haiti and helps bring about a greater understanding of the country.


Over the next few days and weeks, learn all you can about Haiti, carry a Haitian flag with you or wear a Haitian shirt to show your solidarity with the country and spark conversation. Contact your representatives in government and let them know you care about this issue, this misuse of power. Hold them accountable so they hold our President accountable. And finally, challenge the President, challenge yourself to learn what you don’t know and to better understand those with whom you struggle to relate.


With a heavy but hopeful heart,
Chad W. Bissonnette
Executive Director


Thank you for your continued support.

Opportunities to Get Involved

Roots of Development is looking for a Part-Time Financial Analyst and a Board Notetaker to support our board of directors.   These are great opportunities for people who wish to support and become more involved with the organization!


Part-Time Financial Analyst

Position Details: We are recruiting an outstanding undergraduate/graduate student/or retiree with bookkeeping experience. We would also be open to a quick learner who knows or is willing to learn the program Quickbooks. We are in search for a volunteer with knowledge of basic bookkeeping and who would be willing to work with our Executive Director to produce quarterly reports. 5-10 hours per quarter would be the time commitment. This is an outstanding leadership opportunity in an innovative nonprofit organization, which works on projects in Haiti. Schedule flexible. Opportunity to work remotely.


Board Notetaker

Position Details: We are interested in a self-motivated, attentive volunteer to help with note taking during Board meetings. The time commitment would be only 5-6 hours four times a year. We are recruiting someone who has strong listening skills and can capture the essence of discussions and turnover minutes in a timely manner. Strong typing skills a must. This would be an excellent opportunity for someone looking to get more involved in the organization.



About UsRoots of Development’s mission is to support and promote a community-driven approach to development—an approach that is based on strengthening local capacity in order to improve the quality of life in marginalized communities. Our vision is for a world in which the very communities living in poverty are the ones leading the fight against it; a world in which impoverished communities decide their own future and manage their own development. We currently work on the island of La Gonave in Haiti.


For more information and to apply to either position, contact Jessica Desvarieux at jessica.desvarieux@gmail.com


Installation of another set of solar street lamps on La Gonave with Parsons School of Design

For the second year in a row, key locations in several communities on the island of La Gonave have been lit up with newly installed solar-powered street lamps. The new light is a product of a second collaboration between Roots of Development, a team from Parsons School of Design in New York City, and Roots’ local community partner APDAG. This year’s project built on the success of last year’s installment of five solar street lamps in key areas around the community of Gran Sous.


Chad Groshart, a professor at Parsons School of Design, teaches a graduate course on lighting in the developing world for students studying lighting, architecture, and product design. A group of his students collaborated to provide design and technical expertise for the street lamps. They also helped raise money to fund the purchase and transport of the light poles. Groshart and the students joined Roots of Development on La Gonave last month to help local community groups install the new set of lights.

The street lamps are solar powered, and have controllers which allow them to turn on automatically when it starts getting dark. Around 6:30PM every evening, the lights turn on. They stay turned on at full power until midnight, at which time the controller reduces the light by half until 6:00 AM when the lamps turn off. This process helps save power by limiting the light produced when there are fewer people around and therefore less need for light.

The preparation and implementation phases of the project were led by APDAG and representatives of its various member groups. The community’s role included selecting where the street lamps would be placed, preparation of the installation site, providing materials and labor for the installation, and of course maintenance of the poles. With guidance from APDAG, residents debated the merits of possible locations for the solar street lamps. Based upon the needs of their community, they determined which spots would benefit the most from the light. Local groups were also responsible for providing cement, sand, rocks, water, and labor for the installation of each lamp.

The street lamps were purchased from a Haitian-owned company based in Port-au-Prince called ENERSA. This is the second year that ENERSA has worked on this project, as they also provided the light poles for the installation in May 2016. Every part of the light pole is locally sourced and purchased in Haiti, and is meant to have a long life span. They are made of strong durable materials, with solar panels that can last over 25 years and LED lights that will last about 10 years.

The new light has had a clear and immediate impact on the community. Small businesses have popped up under the lights, students are able to study after dark, and the community gathers to plan and discuss current events. Not only does light add to the development of an area by serving as a focal point for economic activities, it strengthens community. Immediately following the installation of the lamps, the community began gathering under the new light. They were hanging out, telling jokes, and listening to music. The influence of the new lamps is already spreading across the island, with leaders from other communities traveling to see the lamps and meeting with APDAG to learn how they might acquire similar lamps to light their own communities.

In evaluations that took place with APDAG after the completion of the project, the great majority of community members in attendance marked the project as a real success. The majority of respondents rated “project implementation” as very good or excellent, including on critical elements such as management of time, money, and materials, the efficiency of the planning process, and accomplishing the project’s objective. Excitement about the new lamps was clear at the meeting. As one resident explained, “this was only seen in our dreams before, only in dreams. Even our ancestors never could have imagined this for our community. Not our great grandparents, not our grandparents, not our parents.”

This project would not have been a success without the generous support of donors and sponsors including The New School, USAI Lighting, Vode, Mercury Lighting, and Lumenwerx. If you are interested in getting involved in Roots of Development’s work, or helping us expand this project specifically, write to us at info@rootsofdevelopment.org.

Thank you for a successful and fun 9th annual fundraiser!

Thank you so much to all who came out to support us at our 9th Annual DC Fundraiser: Back to Our Roots! We are grateful for your support. This year’s event was one of our most fun and most successful events yet. That is thanks to you and to our incredible sponsors Allegis Group and IGT.

2017 DC 9th Annual Fundraiser—Back to Our Roots
Click right and left to scroll through photos from the event.

2017 DC Annual Event PHOTO BOOTH

Click right and left to see fun photos from the photo booth.

 We also want to thank our various event partners that helped us keep expenses down and the event a unique one: Telemundo (financial contribution), Boulder Shares (matching contribution), Suite Four (champagne), Galerie Monnin (artwork), Courvoisier (cocktails), Urban Petals (flowers), Station 4 Restaurant (wine), DMV Haitians and L’Union Suite (press), Cole Hogan and Gerard Kerby Boulin (photography), and the Hyatt Regency Washington (hotel).

We have lots of great art left over from the event. If you are interested in any of the metal art or paintings that were on display at the event, do not hesitate to reach out to us.

Write us at info@rootsofdevelopment.org or call us at (202) 466-0805.

The 9th Annual Event Host Committee:

Alexandra Alzuphar      Anne-Christele Boigris      Astride Charles     Tricia Desvarieux

Nicole Fischer     Christian Jabon    Anouk Leger

Elodie Manuel     Jezette Pinard    Jennifer Plantin     Rudy Pressoir

Jane Charles-Voltaire    Ernest Voyard     Chris Wells

Roots of Development’s Board of Directors:

Jessica Desvarieux      James O. Martin      Jacopo Namari

Bethany Natoli      Magalie Pradel     Ernest Voyard

In fact, if you are interested in getting involved in next year’s event, either as a partner, sponsor, or as a member of the planning committee, do not hesitate to reach out to us.

Thank you for your continued support!