In a small Haitian municipality northwest of the capital city, violent gangs and political power struggles keep ordinary citizens marginalized. Cite Soleil is Haiti’s largest and most densely populated ghetto and has very limited resources. Though one of the most pressing priorities of the community is education, community members note that there are public spaces for sports, but many children in the community have no access to education or learning materials. With this in mind, a social movement called Konbit Solèy Leve initiated an important cause: to build a library, called the Konbit Bibliyotèk Site Solèy, to give the youth a place to pursue their dreams, away from the violence that controls the streets
Miyamoto Relief is assisting with this project by providing engineering, construction oversight/quality control and donating the required funds to purchase building materials for the library.
This dream started small. The plan was to rent a small, one-room concrete building for the library. Konbit Solèy Leve encouraged the community to donate to generate funding for this cause. One key focus was to keep all donations transparent, so they used social media to announce each contribution, counted donations on a weekly basis and built awareness.
The first thousand donors came from the community itself, including lunch money donated from the children who would benefit from the library. But as the campaign grew, it caught international attention. Its popularity and support have reached as far as Brazil, Afghanistan and Czechoslovakia, among other countries. The initial vision of a small one-room library transformed into a sophisticated, first-class infrastructure that will tie the community together.
Over the past 14 months, Konbit Bibliyotèk has mobilized over 4,000 individuals to donate over 9,000 books and over 4.7 million gourdes (approx. $75,000 USD). Inspired by this dedication and generosity, other entities contributed monetary and in-kind donations. The mayor allocated land in the heart of the city, next to Lycée National de Cite Soleil, the high school Miyamoto Relief re-constructed in 2014. The library will benefit from free training for future librarians, communications and web support, graphic design and free internet for two years. Architects, engineers and land surveyors donated their services and skills. Even a playground was donated for the small children to enjoy.
“Funding is still needed to complete the library building. We don’t have funds yet for paint or to complete the roof,” says Sabine Kast. “What is truly special about this project is that a large portion of the funding came from the community itself, including from many of whom live below the poverty line but gave $1 or whatever they could spare. It shows how important it is to them that their children have better access to education and spaces where they can be safe.”