Upon descending Bois Jolie in the spring of last year, I was overcome by the need to return to Haiti and continue forming relationships with the communities we visited during our too-short ten day visit to the country. I was inspired by the community on this mountain and their excitement to show us their farms and the work they did in the year since Sewanee had visited.
This spring I spoke with Pradip Malde about the possibility of returning to the Central Plateau and was thrilled to learn that there was work to be done for a student studying arts and humanities (science has never been my strong suit). While I am not working in Bois Jolie this summer, I had the opportunity to visit the mountain and speak with members of the community in the Zanmi Foto project. Once again I was overwhelmed by the excitement of the photographers to show us their family photo albums. We saw a variety of images from weddings to funerals, working on the farm to spending time with friends, portraits of kids and spouses to self-timed pictures with the entire family. Seeing the photo albums gave us a glimpse into the day-to-day lives of these families. In giving farmers cameras, we are able to see the things that are most important to them by observing what each person chooses to photograph. We can understand better the struggles of the dry season when the plants cannot grow as well or the process of building a new, more sturdy home.
Each Monday the Zanmi Foto employees, Monclair and Toni, hike up the mountain and visit the families in the program. On these tripes they deliver new batteries, memory cards, and photos from the previous week to go into the albums. Oftentimes the farmers indicate a few of their favorite photos that they would like printed, and other times Monclair and Toni choose the photos. One man takes 3,000-4,000 photos a week! These house visits also provide a time for the employees to evaluate the program, asking the farmers how their communities are doing and what more help could be offered to improve the lives of their families. The relationships that are formed out of these conversations inspire me in the work I am doing this summer. As we visit families and ask them about their experience with PSF, we learn more about their lives and their needs. The conversations we have and the interviews we conduct allow us to make sure their voice is heard as we build relationships with each person we encounter.