Program Director Louino “Robi” Robillard – Empowering Communities in Haiti
“I was looking for new opportunities to contribute to positive social change,” says Haitian activist Louino “Robi” Robillard. A community development expert, Robillard has found those opportunities with Rasin Devlopman on the island of La Gonave.
At only 34-years old, Robi has already made huge inroads into transforming some of Haiti’s most impoverished communities. From replanting deforested areas in the village of Saint Raphael, where he was born, to mobilizing young people in nearby communities to help build Haiti’s largest library, Robi has empowered others to lead — generating positive development without future dependency.
Over the past decade, Robillard, who holds an MA in Applied Community Change and Peacebuilding, has deftly utilized his education, along with his passion, to push for change and encourage the brightest of young people to take charge of their own futures.
As Program Director for Rasin Devlopman, Robi is overseeing the organization’s work on La Gonave. His position came about as Roots of Development scaled down its involvement in the work on the ground, in order to be more helpful by focusing on communications and fundraising. Rasin Developman now oversees all aspects of the projects on La Gonave and programming in Haiti.
“It is development without dependency at its best,” says Chad Bissonette, Executive Director of Roots of Development. “The entire team in Haiti that is working with our local partners to implement projects on La Gonave is Haitian. They are folks who have lived the challenges and know the culture. They are the most well-equipped to find the solutions and ensure success.”
According to Robi, “’Our young people can learn the skills necessary to advance the quality of life in their own communities, They must become our ‘agents of change,’ maintaining the momentum needed to sustain continued positive development.”
“Things get done when people and communities come together to work for a common cause. In Haiti, we call it ‘konbit’ —the traditional form of a Haitian labor cooperative,” explains Robi. A proponent and teacher of konbit, he has written extensively about this traditional practice and how it can be used to leverage for social cohesion.
Robillard put the tradition to work in 2011, when he co-founded Konbit Soley Leve, which is a social movement in the marginalized area of Cite Soleil that brought together different neighborhoods to create social change. Building on this movement is Konbit Bibliyotèk Site Soley (Cite Soleil Konbit Library), a social mobilization initiative with a goal of building a modern public library in Cite Soleil. In the past three years, over 6,000 individual donors, most of whom are from Cite Soleil, have contributed over 23 million gourdes (approximately $216,000 US) and 25,000 books. Construction of the library is well underway, but the initiative has already changed the dialogue about community-led development in Haiti.
With a Rasin Developman, Robi will utilize Konbit to inspire and train the people of La Gonave to take their development, their future into their own hands. He is identifying promising young leaders and helping them develop the tools to understand and build on their strengths, to build new infrastructure, protect their families from public health threats like COVID-19, and develop more economic activities in their communities. Robi believes that other people will not save Haiti for Haitians, just as other people will not save La Gonave for Gonavians.
“I see Rasin Devlopman as an organization committed to helping bridge local development with global solidarity, leaving behind old forms of aid that promote dependency,” says Robi. “By reaching back into their collective history, identifying their common resources and values, and committing themselves to the long haul, I believe that the people of La Gonave can transform their future.”
Interview by Sharon Callahan