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

INSTRUCTIONS TO VOTE!

Follow these step by step instructions to vote. It only takes about 2 minutes, and will mean $10,000 worth of funding for our work!

 

STEP 1: Click the following link to open the projects page (and then return here to follow the rest of the instructions): http://projects.kindsnacks.com/

 
STEP 2: After opening the projects page, click on the blue “Log In” link (next to the words “Already have a project?“) and log in to Facebook.


STEP 3: Once you have logged in to Facebook, scroll down to find and click on Roots of Development’s project page.

 

STEP 4: Once you have gotten to our project page, click on the blue button that says “Vote with a Kind Act”

STEP 5: Then click on the pop-up window to like KIND on facebook. Another pop-up window will appear to let you choose a kind act to help register your vote for our project. Choose any kind act, make it a fun one!

STEP 6: THIS NEXT AND FINAL STEP IS REALLY IMPORTANT! After you have voted, the pop-up below will appear. If you click on each of the three buttons to share on your facebook page, on your twitter page and via email…you can earn us three extra votes!! 

You will know that all your votes have counted when you see the screen below:

With your help we can win this…thanks for your vote and for spreading the word!


An Inside Look at La Gonave from Roots Supporter, Leslie Sosnowski

 

Leslie Sosnowski, CEO of BoulderShares and long-time partner and supporter of Roots traveled to La Gonave, Haiti in June of 2013. She first got involved with Haiti back in 1999 when she started sponsoring children through her church as a way of connecting herself and her children with the world at large. She has traveled to Haiti several times with a number of organizations, but what really drew her to Roots was the commitment to our philosophy of Development without Dependency. We recently caught up with her to see what the trip meant to her, and what the experience was like visiting with our local partner communities.

 

Leslie and Carline with plaque of honor

 

Here’s what she had to say:

 

“Every trip to Haiti is a first trip to Haiti in a way, as one never knows what gifts and surprises of the human spirit will be revealed. I have traveled to Haiti before but this time it was different. Roots has such a great energy to it and a unique local connection with the community. Chad [Roots’ Co-founder and Executive Director] has such a genuine relationship with the community; it is a real gift. He did not try to come in and “fix” things, but rather listened to the community, and let them drive the conversation and the change. He planted the seed, and now the work and efforts of the community is enabling it to grow.

 

Although Haiti is only an hour and a half flight from the US, there are such stark differences. Being out on the island of La Gonave makes this contrast even stronger, as mainland Haiti has access to many more services and infrastructure. My journey to La Gonave started with a small charter flight to the island, which I took with an open heart and mind. As soon as my flight landed, I hopped on the back of a dirt bike headed out along the coast and up in the hills, for a rough ride through poor and rural areas. I was welcomed by my host family with utmost pride and hospitality. Escorted by Chad, I made my way through the community to start meeting with people and seeing the projects. I visited the solar cell-phone charging station and a few clean water projects, but was particularly impressed with the women’s group community business. When we walked in to the store, Carline, the President of the group, was alone and clearly not feeling very well, yet she was still carrying out her responsibilities and manning the store. It was incredible, though, as she began talking about the business, what it meant to her, and all that she and the other women had accomplished, she really started to perk up. Her resiliency was so inspiring. That was the very moment I realized the true strength of community, and the positive impact a strong sense of community can have. I was further impressed with Carline when she was discussing how the business came together to work through logistical concerns, and saw their operation in action when they greeted a customer and processed her transaction. At the end of my trip, I was touched by the fact that the community had come together to celebrate my visit with a huge meal and plaque of recognition. I kept thinking, shouldn’t they be the ones recognized for their achievements? Women and children are improving their own living conditions in La Gonave. Right then and there I made the commitment to be their voice to the outside world, and to do what I could to connect people back to this extraordinarily uplifting community by sharing their stories.

 

Since I returned from my trip, I have been following the progress of the Women’s Group and their business. I was so proud and impressed to see their plans developing for the next phase of their growth, to include a new larger store location to expand inventory offerings with increased lighting and security for the women. After visiting with these women and seeing what this business means to them and their community, it is incredible to come home and continue to hear good news of their successes. They are now bringing in over USD $7,000 a month, and I know that their business will only continue to flourish as they strengthen their capacity as business owners and begin to dedicate their revenue to community initiatives for children. This trip showed me firsthand that we are all the same, no matter where we are from. I have learned so much more from these people than I could ever teach. They are so grateful for the opportunities provided to them, and faith shown in their capabilities from the supporters of Roots of Development. The community looks forward to welcoming more visitors. I really encourage anyone who has the means or opportunity to support Roots of Development and their unique and impactful approach to community investment.”

 

A few photos from her trip