October 28, 2011
“Mayors Don’t Suffer Coup d’Etats” — Opportunity Collaboration #OppColl Delegate, Jean-Patrick Lucien on working in Ile-a-Vache, #Haiti

Eco-Village and students on Ile-a-Vache, Haiti. Photo credit: Simon Russell.


I had the pleasure of traveling last week to the Opportunity Collaboration in Ixtapa, Mexico with Haitian-born Jean-Patrick Lucien, computer engineer and insatiable social entrepreneur from Massachusetts.   Jean-Patrick, the son of an agronomist, was raised and educated in Haiti through his teenage years until he migrated with his mother and brothers to the Boston area.  Like many others in the Haitian Diaspora, he maintains intense ties to and a sense of responsibility for his homeland. 


Five years ago, after a vacation to a picturesque island off Haiti’s southern coast — Ile-a-Vache — he began collecting and sending shoes to the children.  Since then he has set up a public charity, the Edem Foundation; worked closely with the island’s mayors to reopen and raise funds for a school for 120 students; launched a bakery spawning scores of jobs and profits to help fund the school; established an investment fund (with investors from the Haitian Diaspora) to spur small enterprise development; and has overseen the construction of brightly-colored cabanas for a charming eco-tourist village run by the Ile-a-Vache Development Group.  In addition to hosting tourists, the village hosts meetings and retreats for NGOs such as Oxfam


For more on the eco-village see here: www.haitivillagevacances.com.


For more on the Edem Foundation and the Ecole du Village see:  http://edem2.org/.


Jean-Patrick works closely with Mayors, he explains, because “Mayors don’t suffer coup d’etats.”   “While in many countries, the national government is synonymous to corruption, this is not always the case for local governments.  In countries like Haiti, mayors are often school teachers or people who have worked for an NGO in the past and have gained the credibility and trust of the community.”  Not only are they more accountable to the local citizens, but they are accountable to members of the Diaspora who still have relatives in the area, and are a frequent source of remittances and donations to local projects.   “Rather than trying to alienate the Mayors, we need to bring them to the table and gain their trust, as we gain theirs, and get them to work alongside everyone.” 


Jean-Patrick is now building relationships with four Haitian mayors in the South, collaborating with them to establish websites to attract investors and NGOs to work with — not just within —  the municipalities.  He will train the municipal employees in how to make optimum use of computer hardware,  a data base of rural development data, project management software, as well as social networking tools.  And then… well… you can bet that this insatiable humanitarian and social entrepreneur will reach out to do the same for Mayors all across Haiti! 


For Jean-Patrick’s first municipal website see:  www.tobek.org.


The Ansara Family Fund at the Boston Foundation is proud to support the Edem Foundation with a grant for technical assistance to four Haitian mayors — a collaboration to open their communities to partnership with the world.