Leadership Profile - Louino Robillard

Leadership Profile – Louino Robillard

Program Director Louino “Robi” RobillardEmpowering 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

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.

An End-of-the-Year Thank You from APDAG

October 2013 Project Update

Check out this month’s project update video, which was made while Roots’ Executive Director, Chad W Bissonnette, was traveling in Haiti. During the video he discusses the current challenges faced by the local women’s group GFDAG, and the importance of community empowerment when it comes to holding local governments and other international organizations responsible.

Hope you enjoy! And, please share this video with others to spread the word about our unique community-centered work. Thank you.