On a twisty-turny bumpy ride down to Jacmel, I anticipated a visit to a place that I always heard about. Every time I’d mention Haiti to people when speaking of my blog, I was asked, “Have you been to Jacmel?!” How could I promote the most beautiful places in Haiti but still had yet to see this desirable place? That finally changed when we entered Jacmel on a dark Tuesday night. That night, Vlad and Georges met us at the Cap Lamandou hotel from the Art Creation Foundation for Children. ACFFC is an organization that I’ve had a South Florida connection with for a few years after meeting Judy Hoffman, the founder of ACFFC, who was selling papier mache art pieces that the children made at center. Vlad and Georges met us to welcome us to Jacmel and to go over the plans for us to visit the children at ACFFC.Papouche, a local Jacmelian and member of ACFFC met us at the hotel to show us where the center was. We arrived at the 2 story freestanding building, beautifully decorated in mosaics on the front, including the choublack (hibiscus flower) with inspiration from Haiti’s new logo. We entered the little shop where the art is for sale to visitors with so much to look at…papier mache masks, ornaments, wall hanging, bowls and glass mosaic bottles. We were given a tour downstairs and upstairs where we saw the computer room, the pharmacy and the library. Art made by these children is everywhere…it’s absolutely beautiful. Aside from its aesthetic beauty, the beautiful children were sitting quietly waiting for their professor to come. We chatted with them and hung out for a little bit while we enjoyed the view of the city of Jacmel.There are around 104 children that benefit from this amazing program. They are sent to school and go to ACFFC after school where they make art, are fed dinner and then go back home to their families. This system of encouragement, not enabling, makes so much sense for Haiti.The city of Jacmel is covered in beautiful mosaic walls done by the children of ACFFC throughout the years. We got to drive around and see all of the different designs and creativity! I am always approached by non-profits; mostly orphanages that want me to promote their org. I usually willing to help, but it wasn’t until I learned about ACFFC and what they were about that I started second guessing many other orgs. ACFFC didn’t say anything to me directly about this topic, but seeing the operation for myself and visiting the building opened my eyes. These kids might have been considers “orphans” by Americans because their parents don’t have money, however, instead of tearing those ones away and institutionalizing them as “orphans,” they are taught art skills, life skills and confidence. Se La Pou’w La (You must see it for your self!!!!) and education is key!
South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com
A journey of the heart leads to the real Haiti
Marci Shatzman firstname.lastname@example.org
10:17 AM EST, December 26, 2012
When Diana Pierre-Louis entered a contest to rebrand her husband's native country of Haiti, she didn't know she would win, let alone be a guest of the president. Twice.
Now this Fort Lauderdale native turned West Boca media guru is helping the tourism ministry pro bono. She wants the world to know that most of Haiti is open for visitors and business, after the January 2010 earthquake left only those images. "Actually, most of the island was unaffected," she said.
That's her slogan Experience It! in the new logo with the red hibiscus. "The logo designer is Xavier Delatour [who] lives in Haiti. I was the slogan winner and they combined his logo with my slogan," she said in an email, after a visit to the couple's home off U.S. Highway 441.
There's even a billboard with the new logo on Interstate 95 at 79th Street in Miami, Pierre-Louis said, showing an image on her iPad. She started TheRealHaiti.Com, a website that grew out of her blog, and has her own line of island jewelry. "Every piece tells a story," she said.
Pierre-Louis was surprised to have found herself on the front row at the business forum on the Haitian dispora at the North Miami Beach Library. She received the invitation from Haiti's vice consul in Miami, Guy Francois, she said. Her husband, Endy, was allowed to come later for President Michel Martelly's State of the Country address from the nearby Gwen Margolis Amphitheater on Dec. 10. The first lady knew her name, she said.
Now both 29, Endy is a registered nurse in the ER at Delray Medical Center. She has degrees from Florida Atlantic and Lynn universities, and is the digital media specialist for Palm Beach State College. She works on the Boca Raton campus once a week.
Diana met Endy through a fix up, and they were a couple for years before they married a year and a half ago. He has been in the U.S. since 1998, a native of Petit-Goaves, a coastal town. His nickname is the Haitian Sensation, he said laughing.
It took her immediate family awhile to come around. The T-shirt she's wearing on her business cards says: "What do you mean I don't look Haitian?"
But their differences were more than skin deep. "It took a while for me to understand the cultural differences," she said.
"The hardest part for her was, we're more laid back," he said.
But it wasn't until her a visit to Labadee, a private resort, aboard a cruise ship in 2008, and a 10-day trip with Endy's relatives that included the ruins of the mountaintop fortress La Citadelle that she became all things Haitian. She loves to show off photos of the stunning views. "It couldn't believe my eyes," she said.
So in March, she entered the contest she saw on the ministry's Facebook page, and in May discovered she had won via a website. "I saw my name and I freaked out," she said. In June she and Endy flew to Haiti to meet Martelly, receive her plaque and hand-beaded flag emblem, and in August they used the hotel package she won.
"This can't be the end. I want to continue promoting the country," she remembers thinking. Then in October, "they made me an official partner…"
The couple knows they're on a journey and they're excited at where this could take them. Endy is proud of his wife's commitment to his country and the Haitian people. "When you stay at a hotel, you feel like you're at someone's home," she said. "By the end of the trip, you're friends."
Copyright © 2012, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
I apologize that it's hard to read! There was no online copy, so I scanned it in.
Thank you all so much for your support! If you ever have suggestions, feedback or comments please send them my way.
While enjoying the sun, sand and sea at Wahoo Bay Beach resort in Port-au-Prince, I saw a group of young guys having the time of their lives. Our group started talking to their group and soon enough we became friends. My husband talked about The Real Haiti and one of the guys knew about my website already!!!
We ate, danced, sang and others joined in. The power of music brought people in from all parts of the beach and pool. It was beautiful! It is such an incredible feeling to know that the good word about Haiti is spreading! We had such a wonderful day and I captured just a little bit of all the fun we had below. Enjoy!
After winning the tourism slogan contest, I knew I wanted to go to Ile a Vache for my winning prize, a hotel package for 3 nights. I was recommended by Haiti's Minister of Tourism's staff to stay at Port Morgan. Port Morgan is a beautiful hotel located on the island of only 15,000 people. As soon as we arrived to the hotel's dock, we were greeted by the friendly staff and shown our room. The staff really is great and make you feel at home, catering to every need you may have...and with a smile!
The beach: The beach at Port Morgan is not a typical beach front because it's cliffy and rocky. There are still lounge chairs to relax on and it is absolutely beautiful. Don't be surprised when you see horses and goats at this beach! If you want a more sandy ocean front, I recommend walking to Abaka Bay (see my review for this hotel here), another hotel on Ile a Vache or get a local to show you the deserted beach nearby! It is AMAZING!!!!!!!
Best part: The hospitality and the food make this place an absolute must! The French owner is always out working and mingling with the guests to make sure they are having a great time. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all over the top! The food is amazing, home cooked and abundant!
Tip: Transportation to Ley Cayes - Take a large bus to Ley Cayes that you can catch in downtown Port-au-Prince for $10 US per person. We took one back to PAP, but on the way there, we took a pa padap (a small white local bus taxi also $10 US per person) to Ley Cayes...NOT SAFE! The bus goes very fast and passes a lot of cars, which is more dangerous than the larger bus. The large bus goes much slower and takes longer, but safety is first :) Both are air conditioned, but not blazingly cold.
Also, Port Morgan is a very relaxing, quiet, romantic place. If you're looking for a more active, family friendly hotel, you should consider Abaka Bay.
Call your hotel to ask when the boat transportation leaves the Ley Cayes port so you have enough time to drive to Ley Cayes and then catch the boat to the hotel.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to the Minister of Tourism's office for giving me and my family a chance to visit this beautiful place! Messi anpil!!!!!
A logo creates instant recognition. When people see this logo, I want them to think of Haiti as an experience. This logo was created on the basis of Haitian pride, history and culture; 3 things that make Haiti stand out. The blue and red colors represent the Haitian flag, a symbol of pride and strength. The circular symbol is a modified conch shell, a representation of the untouched seas and traditional cuisine. The Makandal statue in the middle is a historical and recognizable image that reminds Haitians of the struggle to become independent. The Real Haiti logo encourages the viewer to find out more about the country and why they should experience it for themselves. The original design is atypical of a tourism logo that makes it stand out from the rest.
This is a Q&A for my job. I couldn't help answering almost every question about Haiti...enjoy!
What is the favorite part of your job at the College?
Although it might seem like all fun and games, the College Facebook and Twitter pages have become a great online networking place for students. It's also a place where they know they can come and get their questions answered. I love being able to help students online.
What event changed your life? My life changed when I was hired in CRM because I was given a chance as a young professional to prove that I could do the job well. I have learned so much in the past 3.5 years and the experience I have gained is invaluable. I have also established a career that I enjoy so much.
Who had the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you? My husband, Endy. He has taught me to work hard at everything I do, to be open-minded, patient and caring. He has also taught me to not worry as much as I used to and to appreciate the little things in life. He always says, "Life is beautiful" and he really is right!
What are you most proud of in your life? It's a recent event, actually. I applied to a contest to rebrand Haiti to promote tourism. My slogan, "Experience it" or "Experience Haiti" was chosen by the Minister of Tourism office! Soon I will be attending a special ceremony in Haiti to officially launch the logo and slogan with the logo winner, the Republic's ambassadors, the minister of tourism and President Michel Martelly.
How would you like to be remembered? I would like to be remembered as a thoughtful person who appreciates different cultures and countries for what they are.
What skill should every person have? Communication is key in every relationship. You don't have to agree to have effective communication. As long as you can see other people's point of view with respect, everything will be ok.
Is there something that you wish you could change? How would you change it, and why? I wish I could change the image of Haiti as it is perceived in the news. Yes, there is a lot of sadness and help needed for the country; however, there are also a lot of great things there. The media focuses on the capital only, but if you could go and experience the culture, music, food and people, your life will change for the better.
Do you have a talent no one knows about? I love photography. I learned videography in graduate school, but learning photography has become one of my favorite hobbies. I enjoy both of them very much!
Do you have any words of wisdom you would like to pass along? My parents always told me, "No one can ever take your education away from you." I kept telling myself this throughout college. Also, take everything for what it's worth. If you have to work for free to gain experience, do it. Hard work always pays off.
What is one skill you would most like to master? Speak Haitian Creole fluently.
I was asked to be a guest writer on Brand-Haiti.org. Check out my exclusive blog post - www.Brand-Haiti.org - about how I got to meet President Martelly!
BrandHaiti is a global student led non-profit business marketing organization that re-brands Haiti’s negative image through highlighting the country’s strengths and comparative advantages to foster pro-Haitian business investment and revitalize a non-exploitative economy.
Logo and slogan winners