In early 2017, a group of young artists and intellectuals called FACHAITI in Cite Soleil decided that it was important to build a library in Cite Soleil. Over the past decade, there had been a lot of investment in youth spaces, but these spaces were mostly for sports, and they wanted to have a space for young scholars to get together, research, read, write, and discuss books. They identified a small concrete block house in Wharf Cite Soleil that could cost a few thousand dollars to buy, which they could transform into a very small community library.
FACHAITI brought the idea to Konbit Soley Leve, who advised them that instead of writing a proposal to a donor, they should first look for support in their own community. They should give ordinary people in Cite Soleil the opportunity to participate in making this dream a reality, that they should be the first donors. So Konbit Soley Leve and the youth group began to go door to door with a cardboard box, asking for contributions.
For the sake of transparency, each time someone contributes, the donor would take a selfie and post it on Facebook with the hashtag #KonbitBibliyotek. The funds were counted every Sunday at the local radio station, where everyone was welcome to observe. At the end of the weekly count, a progress statement would be circulated on social media.
The campaign went viral. People across Cite Soleil began to donate, then across Port au Prince, then Haiti, then the world. Schoolchildren gave up their lunch money, strangers who overheard about the project on public transport asked to contribute, people abroad wired through Western Union.
Since then, the idea has grown in scale. So many people from across Cite Soleil contributed that they were no longer happy with the small one-room concrete house in Wharf Soleil – they wanted a big, modern building that was accessible to everyone. And so the community and the local authorities chose the perfect place: Place Fierte, the large public park in the heart of Cite Soleil.
This is a grassroots campaign with a small army of volunteers; however, driving this initiative are the 11 co-founders, who are young volunteers from across Cite Soleil:
The initiative is currently a grassroots movement – it has no legal structure. However, there are several local, national, and international institutions who have agreed to act as organizational and fiscal sponsors for the initiative in case of any donations or action that require legal status. Those organizations are Radio Boukman 95.9 Cite Soleil, Haiti Communitere, Future Generations Haiti, and Future Generations. Once the library is built, a legal institution will be founded to run it and ensure its operation and long-term sustainability.