Every couple of months we like to highlight a partner in an attempt to emphasize the often unnoticed efforts that continue in Haiti. We recently spoke with Jonny Carmil, APDAG’s Treasurer. As a lifetime resident of Gran Sous, Jonny volunteers most of his time to work for APDAG The Peasant Association for the Development and Advancement of Gran Sous).
Jonny’s dedication to the group is a representation of his commitment to attaining his dream of APDAG one day becoming an independent entity that is able to support itself and manage its own projects without any outside help. Despite his optimism for the future Jonny realizes that for the time being, APDAG “has the will but not the funds” to carry out their projects. When that situation changes in the future, APDAG will be well equipped to handle the influx of resources.
Though APDAG mostly focuses on local needs and issues, Jonny’s dreams go beyond his hometown of Gran Sous: “We want Roots to help us grow as an organization and help us become more self sufficient to reach out to neighboring communities.” While Roots of Development has helped APDAG realize many of its dreams by raising over $150,000 in funding over the past four years, Gran Sous’ needs far outstrip Roots’ current financial capacity. It’s important to note that since their inception, APDAG has had the power to pay themselves, yet only the person injecting the purification solution into the water system receives any compensation. The other members of APDAG push through each challenging day, receiving no pay, but benefit from their community efforts along with everyone else.
As Treasurer, Jonny is responsible for tracking and reporting APDAG’s finances. As you can imagine he regularly handles more money than anyone else in APDAG. In a situation where most people have access to few resources, people could easily become suspicious of Jonny handling so much money. In an effort to prevent any suspicions from threatening the group, APDAG developed a system of internal checks and balances requiring members to hold each other accountable when project funds distributed for any reason. Jonny has to show receipts whenever he withdraws or deposits funds from the bank. Other members of APDAG similarly withdraw and deposit money from Jonny, signing receipts in the process. This transparency has helped foster and maintain a high level of trust not just within APDAG, but between Roots of Development staff and APDAG. Jonny’s role is important, but the decentralized nature of APDAG’s structure places him on equal footing with every other member.
Jonny’s dedication and everyday sacrifice for the development of La Gonave is truly humbling. Like many people on La Gonave, Jonny is unemployed. Every hour spent working for local communities through APDAG could be spent finding employment for himself. Instead, Jonny has chosen to build a stronger community group. Everyone who has ever supported Roots in any way will be happy to receive this important message from Jonny: “To all the people who have supported APDAG in the past we would like to say thank you. [Your] money has not gone to waste and we hope that [you] continue to make the same sacrifices to support our future projects.”
With Roots’ support, APDAG will soon begin establishing other community associations on La Gonave by replicating the systems and structures it has already successfully established in Gran Sous. Other community associations will be created independently of APDAG and begin increasing the amount of community-led development efforts being carried out on the island. With a holistic, bottom-up approach to development these community associations serve as platforms from which the poor can manage their own development and achieve greater economic independence.
*Special thanks to Coralie Saint-Louis for contributing to this article.