Tired of staying at home every day waiting for a miracle to happen or for the situation to improve. I immediately gave my agreement to Father Dominique (Father Robert Pierre-Louis) to go and participate in a workcamp in Cazale without knowing the extent of what was waiting for me, without thinking that this experience would change my life.
Cazale is a communal section located more than 12 km from Cabaret and more than 70 km from the Haitian capital. This village is the main population center of the Polish community in Haiti. The name Cazale originates from Kay Zalewski, which means “house of Zalewski” (a popular Polish family name) and is populated by descendants of Polish soldiers sent by Napoleon in 1802. Initially, their mission was to fight on the side of the French in order to discipline the slaves. However, seeing the cruelty of the French towards the slaves, they changed sides and helped the slaves to defend themselves. Cazale has known dark days because history tells us that on March 27, 1969, the Tontons Macoutes massacred more than twenty Cazalais for being fiercely opposed to the regime of (Papa Doc) François DUVALIER.
This area is favorable to agriculture but is not very well exploited, except by a few of its inhabitants. It is with this objective that INHO (Invest in People), a non-profit association decided to highlight the assets and wealth of this village, to serve the children and youth in Haiti. Human development: education, agriculture. Above all, teaching young people to live and work as a team, etc. are the main targets.
As a volunteer, I was going to leave for this village with a group of young people. The workcamp took place from June 16 to 20. I contacted my friend Macky, one of the members, who was also going. He was the only person I knew before this camp.
Being the first one to arrive in the downtown area, more precisely on Saint-Honoré street, which was our starting point, I immediately met Guerby, one of the participants, a nice guy, not too talkative, enthusiastic just like me to participate in this great adventure. A few minutes later, Macky arrived and together we went to Clercine to join the others.
Once in Clercine, we were seven (7) in total (Genel, a young man from Cazale, Tom from Pétion ville, Skine from Delmas, Guerby from Carrefour, Julméus from Port-de-Paix – the North-West of the country; Macky and I, from Carrefour), the team being complete, we headed for Cazale for our mission.
Silence reigned in the van (route: Clercine-Cross of the missions) because most of us did not know each other but once in the bus for Cabaret, it was another atmosphere, everything intrigued me: from the presentation of the team in the bus, through the jokes of the marketing agent always in the bus with his famous products.
Then while getting off, the mode of transport of the Cazalais passengers in motorcycle cab and finally the stop to cross the river on foot naked before reaching the village.
Welcome to Cazale, a sign posted at the entrance to the town. Despite the lack of electricity and road infrastructure, this does not prevent us from seeing all the beauty and richness of this village: its natural resources, the hospitality of the people and the calm and peaceful climate that prevails. Genel, a native of the village was our local guide. He is a dedicated young man with a great sense of responsibility.
As soon as we arrived, we could see the familiarity between us, as if we were long-time friends. Skine and Guerby are our two jokers who are humorous but serious about their work. Tom is the youngest among us, he is kind, understanding and obedient.
Julméus, known as Kaya with his northern accent, is very helpful and always has a story to tell. Macky, our photographer and motivator, always reminds us of our mission and I try to adapt, which is easy because the atmosphere was at my ease. Our thanks to the Jean-Claude family for welcoming us.
Laughter was always on our lips, we were always looking for a way to have fun without losing sight of our objective which brought us to meet the young people of Cazale among whom: Genel and Jean Claude that we already knew Wesner, Jeannel, Prospère, Mano, Jimmy, Dauggy etc… They showed us some techniques and practices of animal production especially concerning the goats: How to take care of them, feed them etc… things that most of us didn’t know afterwards, we went to Mrs. Anaïse the mother of Wesner and Mano, very kind and courteous, she showed us the land.
We organized what is called in Creole a ”Konbit” – Camp-workshop to plant beans. The Konbit is a cultural heritage well implanted in the customs of the Haitian peasantry, a choice that allows the peasants to face agriculture.
Large stones are laid out, the children fetch wood for the fire. The aroma of the coffee prepared by Mrs. Anaïse and Livia incites us to put down our tools to drink it, then, we invest the ground by working ardently. The “Konbit” progresses with the animations and the regional songs to give a festive air to the event.
The team spirit made us united and welded, we could not differentiate the young people of Cazale and those of Port-au-Prince and Port-de-Paix. No discrimination or social class. It is in this same spirit that 2 days later, on June 18th, Steeve, one of the members coming from Port-au-Prince joined us. Not being able to be there from the beginning, he was accompanied by a guest who was leaving the same day. Steeve, Tom’s older brother, will stay with us. He immediately blended in. He is very wise and fully involved in all the activities. All the credit goes to the young people of Cazale for their dedication and know-how. We have learned a lot from them. And that’s one of the principles of INHO – learning from each other, young people, learning and teaching. They reminded us once again that the Creole proverb “Men anpil chay pa lou” which promotes collaboration, unity and team spirit, or our famous saying at INHO “Goumen ansanm oubyen mouri pou kò w. (Stand and fly as one or die alone).
Let’s use the Haitian motto ”l’Union fait la force” because during this camp, I saw what young people can do while uniting. We were united and that’s what makes us strong. The walks, the bathing in the river, the food and the very tasty local products, the climbs in the mountains to go graze the goats and the “Konbit” all that in us the flame of hope and revives in us a feeling of belonging to this nation which needs so much of its young people to be reborn from its ashes.
We were about forty: children from 6 to 17 years old both sexes; and young adults, also both sexes. The young boys of 16 years old at most worked in the “Konbit” and grazed the goats. The girls up to 16 years old helped Anaïse and Lavia in the kitchen – and the children from 6, 7 to 16 years old played among themselves.
How could I forget our music compositions taking everything in front of us to produce sounds, our afternoon debates on the problems of Haitian youth while trying to find solutions and an improvised party the day before our departure with all the young people singing, dancing not to say goodbye but to say goodbye we’ll see you at the harvest.