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Earthquake Survivors Tell Their Story


Q: Bayyinah you are the president of Fondation Félicité?


Bayyinah Bello:Yes the full name of the organisation is Fondation Marie Claire Heureuse Félicité Bonheur Dessalines (FF) but the short name is Fondation Félicité.I have two volunteers here with me, Placide Jean Cédieu and Guetchline Jean Louis.



Q: How did the Fondation get started and what is the history of the name?


Bayyinah Bello: We started in 1999, we were about 50 people, who decided we wanted to create the organisation. Marie Claire Heureuse Félicité  Bonheur Dessalines was and that is the name of the first lady of Haiti, the wife of Jean Jacques Dessaline, and she was a slave first, she learned to read and write, she started teaching people, she worked in health and she lived to be 110 years, worked at the liberation of the country and became the first empress of Haiti.

To learn more about Marie Claire Heurese Felicite Bonheur Dessalines [click here]

Q: Very impressive, 110, is that common in Haiti, for people to live so long?


Answer (Bayyinah Bello): I can’t say common but we do have a pretty high population of centenarians. From what our work has shown at the Fondation is that Haiti has maybe a higher than the average – world average that is.



Q: Why did a group of people get together to set up this organisation?


Bayyinah Bello: Because we started realising that the history they are teaching our children is really far from the truth of what our experience has been as a people. So as we begin to discover how much untruth is in it, then we decided that we really needed to sit down and research, do the work, and correct the situation.





Toussaint L'Ouverture, Pronunciation: [tOOsaN´ lOOvertür´]

Mainstream Haitian history tends to focus on Toussaint and pay little

attention to the founder of Haitian democracy - Jean Jacques Dessalines.

see our history page for more info




Q: We are very far from each other but it is the same principles happening here in the UK, working with young people daily who have a lack of understanding about their history and other people's history around the world. It's important that the history we have experienced along with our ancestors is taught properly; so that young people can benefit and feel very honoured to be who they are.


Bayyinah Bello: That’s correct and it’s particularly important for Haitians, because often people want to say, “well why did you do independence - why did you do all this 200 years ago?” and precisely because the history is so distorted that is why today we are not living up to what we did before.



Q: On a day-to-day basis what does your organisation do?


Bayyinah Bello: We do research; we investigate as I said before about centenarians, we invest in young people, and we work only with volunteers. So it’s about learning how to do and how to solve problems for young folks and to do things because you love it and not because they pay you for it. So that’s the primary things that we do. So for example the young will identify an elder, connect to this elder, go visit her and bring things for her, help her do different things etc. We do literacy, teaching people how to read and write, we have a high population of non-readers. Also giving the young people initiative, because here most people wait to get a job with the government. Where as we encourage young people to get together, sit down, debate, see what they can do, help them find means and create their own. For example, an enterprise like producing peanut or whatever it is they have talent for.




WATCH MUSIC VIDEO: Wasp - Cry fi Haiti (Tribute to Haiti's Earthquake victims)






Q: When you say young people how old are the people you are talking about?


Bayyinah Bello: From 18 to 35, and here you can be young even older than that, because we have a large population of people who are maybe 35, 40, who are still living at their mothers house and still waiting for their mum to give them food, because they are not working.





                                                                                  The Center of University and Professional Learning was destroyed by the earthquake.




Q: Bayyinah, your organisation has a youth wing called JKT?


Bayyinah Bello: Yes that’s correct and those who get trained also help others in secondary school.