‘The Hope That I Saw Was Overpowering’: Haitian Diaspora Share Reflections, Advice with PIH Community

Panel explores Haiti’s history, its challenging present, and pathways forward

Posted on Nov 24, 2021

As Guerline Jozef stood under a bridge at the U.S.-Mexico border, she was surrounded by thousands of Haitian migrants and asylum seekers. In the sea of eyes around her, she saw--and felt--a sense of hope.

“I saw those 14,000 faces. Not only 14,000 faces there, but also 14,000 Guerlines,” said Jozef, co-founder and executive director of Haitian Bridge Alliance. “So as I was looking at myself in the faces of those [people]...the hope that I saw was overpowering the desperation in the conditions of our people.”

Jozef, who was at the border to provide legal and social services, says that moment—and many other similar instances—is what keeps her motivated to advocate for a sustainable society for all Haitians. 

During a livestream organized by Partners In Health (PIH) on November 15, Jozef shared her honest reflections and advice alongside Whenda “Wanda” Tima, CEO and founder of L’union Suite; Ancito Etienne, PIH trustee; and Jimmy Jean-Louis, actor, producer, and ambassador to The Barbancourt Foundation. The conversation was moderated by Christa Michaud, Haitian diaspora engagement and development officer at PIH. 

During the hour-long virtual conversation, panelists examined Haiti’s complex history, its challenging present, and the important roles played by the diaspora. United by their shared fight of pushing for justice, the panelists expressed pride in where they came from. 

“There’s a real will to put all our energy and strength into bettering the Haitian cause. That’s why we’re here. And that’s why I still remain. Because I truly believe that Haiti can come out of it,” Jean-Louis said during the event.

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Etienne echoed Jean-Louis’ thoughts and encouraged viewers to look beyond the often negative portrayal of Haiti—which is what L’union Suite, which started as Tima’s passion project, does by sharing everyday stories and amplifying voices on her website. “We’re a melting pot of people. We’re not just the poorest this and the poorest that,” said Tima.

The panelists are among the more than three million Haitians living outside of the country, which includes an estimated two million people in the United States. As leaders in their respective fields, they aim to create a thriving community--in Haiti and beyond its border-- where all voices are heard.

“Haiti is in the process of becoming what it’s always meant to be,” said Etienne.

A recording of the discussion is available to watch above or on PIH’s Youtube channel. To learn more about our panel partners, visit The Barbancourt Foundation, Haitian Bridge Alliance, and L’union Suite.

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