I was born in a rural village in northern Haiti called St Raphael the year that our country’s three-decades’-long dictatorship collapsed. Like many Haitians during this turbulent time, my father decided to move to the capital, Port au Prince, taking me with him. The only place we could afford to live was Cite Soleil, which was a kind of ghetto on the outskirts of the capital. Cite Soleil was mostly ignored by the state and run by gangs, and I grew up in a very complex and often violent urban world.
But I was committed to my studies, stayed away from the violence, and began to emerge as a leader among my peers. The earthquake of January 12th, 2010 felt like a second chance at life, and it inspired me to devote more of my life to social change. I helped found a movement in Cite Soleil dedicated to non-violent community change, worked on youth mentorship, and I’m fighting the negative stigma attached to my community. I earned a Master’s degree in Community Change and Peacebuilding and traveled the world learning from community change activists.
And yet I felt the need to go back to my village, St Raphael. And when I returned after 23 years of being away, I saw how deforested it was. That deforestation was causing droughts and environmental problems, and I knew I had to do something, however small, for my community. So my wife and I bought a quarter-hectare of land to grow our own small forest, and transformed the barren space into a community park called Pak nan Ginen. We got early support from the Pollination Project that allowed us to build a community meeting space and latrine on the land, and since that original grant, the park has continued to grow. It now covers a full hectare and has hundreds of trees, serves hundreds of community members, and has become a local reference for community-driven reforestation.
To read more about Louino’s Pollination Project Grant, click here.