Haiti is the first nation built of slaves to obtain its freedom, in 1804. The monument to commemorate the 200th anniversary of their freedom even withstood the seemingly unending natural disasters that plague Haiti, acting as a symbol of their resilience and the strength of their people. Since 1804, the country’s population has grown to be the third largest in the Caribbean.
This April was my first trip to this vibrant and proud country. While there, I continued to hear from Haitians and Americans alike, that Haiti is on the edge of something great. Times are changing. Enough years have gone by since the Duvalier dictatorship and the rebuilding process from the 2010 earthquake is in full force. They have an engaging new Ministresse of Tourism who is ready to welcome the hordes of tourists eager for white beaches and crystal clear water. The Minister of Education, newly inaugurated as of April 2014, has ambitious plans to finally fulfill promises made in the past.
Haitians themselves are very forward thinking. This was made most clear to me at the Library For All Stakeholder Meeting we hosted on April 30th in Port-au-Prince. The room was packed with 85 interested guests who took a chance on a relatively unknown nonprofit with a new and dynamic idea. These people were from different walks of life – educators, publishers, techies, and humanitarians – and came together at a local university to hear and have a robust discussion around the future of education.
However, this dynamism was not limited to a one-time meeting. It was evident at the Surtab factory where the first “Made in Haiti” tablets were produced. It was found at the new, modern airport rebuilt after the earthquake to accommodate the coming influx of travelers. Most importantly, it’s seen in the students when they first read books on the tablets. These Haitians are ready to embrace the technological era and integrate into education. The developing world can’t continue on the linear path of development that we had the luxury of following in the first world nations. They have to leapfrog certain steps (i.e. landline telephones) to catch up – their willingness to do this in Haiti puts the country on the brink of greatness.