Letter in response to President Trump's comments on Haiti

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!

APDAG reaches another significant milestone!

Our local community partner APDAG, just reached another significant milestone in their journey to greater organizational capacity and independence. They have successfully completed repayment of a US$5,000 loan we lent them when they started their transportation business!

With your support a couple years ago, we raised money to help APDAG buy a truck and start a transportation business. However, after the truck had been bought, they needed more money to alter it, to make it functional for the type of transportation they were going to be doing. They needed money to cut off the boxed back of the truck, lift the truck up off its frame more to give it greater clearance over the rocky terrain on La Gonave, and to build an open iron basket-like back. We spent time discussing what it means to take on a loan and eventually drafted up an agreement. Both parties signed the agreement and Roots lent them the money (US $5,000).

They just finished paying back the loan and sent a thank you letter to Roots for providing them with the opportunity. It is pretty exciting and a real milestone as far as their capacity goes. A real example of “Development without Dependency”!