How One Haitian-American Fulfilled Her Quest To Give Back To Haiti, Part I

How One Haitian-American chose to give back to Haiti
Are you a Haitian-American eager to find a way to help those in Haiti? Trisha Therese, a New Yorker born of Haitian parents, who’s currently living in the Los Angeles area, counted herself among those who wanted to find a way to apply her skills to serving the island’s population. Let’s find out how this medical student took action and fulfilled her quest of giving back to Haiti.

Kreyolicious: Tell us about your memories of growing up Haitian-American.
Trisha Therese: I grew up in the suburbs of NYC. There were a lot of Haitian people in the surrounding communities and I definitely took for granted the plethora of Haitian restaurants and bakeries within driving distance (I’m especially missing this since I moved to Los Angeles where there are none to be found). Growing up, I had a regular life as an American kid living in the suburbs, but my parents made sure that I was well connected to Haitian culture, and that I had Haitian pride.

My mom really put an emphasis on learning languages and how to make traditional foods. As a kid, she made sure to get me children’s books in French and English so I could practice both languages. She also bought computer software for me to practice French grammar and learn French at home. I was also exposed to a lot of Haitian Creole and unlike some parents, she really encouraged me to learn and speak it. I know some parents who worry that raising their children in a multilingual home makes it harder for them in school or they worry that their kids will have an accent. But my mom saw it as an asset that I could speak three languages and I’m so glad she did. It’s nice being fluent in French, Creole, and English, and the fact that I can read, write, and speak in Creole has been an asset to my work in Haiti. When it comes to cooking, I will admit that I didn’t take my mom very seriously when she was trying to teach me as a child. I am genuinely regretting it now that I live across the country from her and I can’t make my favorite Haitian dishes on my own. But you best believe that every time I come home during school breaks, I make sure to have her teach me at least one new recipe!

Growing up, my parents were always involved in the Haitian community. My dad was especially active (and still is today), so it makes sense that I’ve started to follow in his footsteps by taking on leadership roles in organizations and causes dedicated to helping Haitian people.How One Haitian American Gave Back to Haiti
Above: Trisha Therese during one of her trips to Haiti.

Kreyolicious: You were part of a Haiti project?
Trisha Therese: Yes, I was part of a few. During my time at Harvard, I worked with different Boston-based organizations that focused on improving healthcare and medical education in Haiti. One of the projects was to perform a census of Haitian families living in the mountains on the Haiti-Dominican Republic border. Before this project, it was unknown how many families were living in the mountains. We used GPS trackers to map the coordinates of the homes that we found in the mountains and collected data on their needs, health, and access to food and water. I was the only one who came on the trip that could speak Creole, so I did almost all of the speaking and translating for the group. I’ll never forget when one of the kids realized I was speaking Creole and not French. He ran and got his mother and she gave me a hug. She couldn’t believe that I was born in [the United States of] America, learned to read, write, and speak Creole, and came to her remote community to help. She explained to me how missionaries came every so often to her area, to bring food, water, and medical supplies, but they never spoke Creole and usually only spoke French or Spanish. She said that she has never seen a Haitian or a Haitian-American come to her community and that I gave her hope. That experience was really humbling and I realized that my Creole skills should not go to waste. Since then, I’ve returned to Haiti a few times and have been dedicated to helping Haiti in any way I can.

I ended up returning to Haiti during my time in undergrad to work with another organization on a new medical education curriculum for medical students in Haiti. I spent a year helping to develop this course for Haitian medical students. American medical students were invited as well and they flew to Haiti to participate. We created a summer course that focused on the social determinants of health and how social and environmental factors are major contributors to disease, especially amongst poor and vulnerable populations.

After entering medical school, I sought opportunities to continue work in Haiti. It was hard at first since my school is in Los Angeles where there is a very small Haitian population. Thankfully I found a research mentor who was planning on doing a research project in Port-au-Prince. Thanks to generous sponsorship by my school’s global health program and guidance from my mentor, I traveled solo to Port-au-Prince to lay the foundations for a study we were working on. The study took place at GHESKIO, which is a leading center for the study and treatment of HIV and AIDS in Haiti. During this time, I spent the summer living in Port-au-Prince and working at GHESKIO where I worked alongside the nurses and doctors in the maternal HIV clinic. I also got to spend time at GHESKIO’s laboratory in Tabarre.

[Photo Credit: Trisha Therese/Three Thousand Miles Blog]

This concludes PART I of the interview with Trisha Therese! Watch out for PART I, which will give us more insight on this Haitian-American’s remarkable background journey.


CLICK HERE to visit her blog and website!

CLICK HERE to follow her on Instagram.

Original author: kreyolicious
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Director Mario Delatour On The Future of Filmmaking in Haiti

Film director Mario Delatour has had a career as diverse as his upbringing. He was born in Venezuela to Haitian parents. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and currently lives in Haiti. His films are focused on different aspects of Haiti’s history: immigration from the Middle East to Haiti in the 19th Century, the history of Haiti’s banking system, and even the invasion of Haiti by three in the late 1950s. Last year, he chose to cover more than two centuries of history of Haiti’s forests in Where Did The Trees Go? The project will screen at the Haiti Cultural Exchange Haiti Film Fest on May 13 at the Maroney Theater at Saint Francis College in New York.

Kreyolicious: What would you say is the favorite film that you have produced?
Well, every film is different. It is sort of like parents who deal with their children. Every child requires different sets of challenges. The subject matters are different. The economic means are sometimes more precarious. The time constraints are not always the same, and the people you collaborate with can make or break a film. [It] makes a huge difference if the right chemistry is not there!

All of my films are a work of labor, and I cherish the experiences that each one allowed me. When you make films ,you go through a lot. You meet a lot of challenges. You face tough decisions. I am glad that I was able rise up to the occasion and I am also thankful that the films exist today. I will leave a body of work for Haiti.

Kreyolicious: As you were going down in your journey as a filmmaker, what was the best advice you were given?
To be persistent. Stick to your guns, and follow your dreams. And I must say, I did.

Kreyolicious: And now as a seasoned filmmaker, what advice would you like to give out to those aspire to get to your level?
The same.
director Mario Delatour
Above: Director Mario Delatour at a screening of one of his previous films Storming Papa Doc. Photo Via: AyitiImages

Kreyolicious: What’s your view on the future of Haitian filmmaking?
If the old pass the baton to the younger generation, and [if] the young “upcoming Turks” are willing to listen, then the future of filmmaking in Haiti looks bright.

Having said [this], filmmakers—whether young or old—cannot possibly make films if they can’t raise money. This has always been The $64,000 question! Where to do you get the money to make films? Film has always been—and remains—a very expensive medium.

Haiti should look to its neighbor the Dominican Republic, and see what they have done in terms of creating a state fund for filmmakers. Also, how the Dominican filmmakers have grouped themselves to create a solid Filmmaker’s Association that in turn has acted as a powerful lobby to enact laws in their legislature to promote filmmaking in their country. The result has been tremendous for them. They do over 20 feature films of their own every year and they host a cavalcade of foreign film companies who come to film in the Dominican Republic, and they get tax breaks.

On our side of the island, let us not reinvent the wheel. Let us get to work and do the same.

[Main Photo: via AyitiImages]

Director Mario Delatour’s film will screen on May 13 at 2 p.m. at St. Francis College | Maroney Theater |180 Remsen Street | Brooklyn, NY 11201 |

CLICK HERE to visit the Haiti Cultural Exchange website and learn more about director Mario Delatour and the other filmmakers taking part in Haiti Cultural Exchange Haiti Film Fest!

Original author: kreyolicious
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