Written by Jermaine Broetje (Programs Assistant) and Jennifer Porter (Consultant)
Sustainable Action International (SAI) is a community development organization that has been working in La Victoire for the past 10 years. La Victoire is a rural community in north-central Haiti where co-founder, Evens Paul, was raised. SAI partners with a local federation of farmers, churches, and leaders to reinforce community engagement, support families to grow their own crops and raise animals, reduce extreme poverty, and build up the rural economy. Vista Hermosa Foundation, an initiative of Broetje Family Trust, is inspired by SAI’s approach to economic development through supporting families to be closer to God in the ways they serve one another and the land.
Mr. Dieula connected with Evens last year as he was searching for a community interested in joining the Communities Initiative Support Program. “We are looking for communities, but they are looking for us as well,” says Evens. Mr. Dieula had spent twenty-five years as a grassroots coordinator for government programs, but he felt that most of his life had been wasted. After many years serving his community, he still experienced the effects of generational poverty. When Evens and his staff visited Mr. Dieula’s home, they were surprised that a community leader was living in such a small home with six of his children, three of whom had children of their own. In his later years, he only had one goat to his name and feared the economic toll his family would face if he were to die.
Although he felt his life’s work lacked purpose, Mr. Dieula never failed to lose hope. “Haitians are resilient” says Evens, “Haitians live by the metaphor of Wozo, be bent but never stay bent”. Mr. Dieula heard about Sustainable Action International and their reputation through beneficiaries in his community. After receiving goats from SAI, beneficiaries noted economic improvement. SAI staff trains partners to utilize local resources to be sustainable, discourages the overselling of their limited resources, encourages villages to eat what they produce, and motivates them to make the most of their resources (e.g., using goat’s milk to produce cheese and other dairy products). Despite twenty-five years of challenges he faced as a leader, Mr. Dieula chose to keep going and look for opportunities so that those who relied on him would not give up on life.
Mr. Dieula recognizes his influence as a deacon who preaches and serves in his church. Today, he is reaffirmed in his identity of servant and has absorbed what he has learned from SAI and shares all that he has and is with his community. He continues to see progress in his economic circumstances which allows him the capacity to fully invest in his first loves, serving the community and his family. Now, Mr. Dieula regularly meets with his community to see what they are envisioning and how they can plan together and enact change. He finds joy in being present with his children and grandchildren, no longer worrying about the “what ifs” but the “what now?”
Evans and his team describe Mr. Dieula this way. “He has humility. Others can see him as an example of vision and integrity. He has a servant heart and works alongside others to strengthen his community in service of God.” Dieula’s resilient heart is the greatest weapon in combatting generational insecurity; he just needed a trusting partner willing to walk alongside him as he met his basic needs.