the Origins of Konbit Soley Leve
The earthquake of 2010 changed a lot in Cite Soleil – the night of January 12th, 2010, thousands of Soleyans from different neighborhoods slept together in Plas Fyete, the public square in the heart of Cite Soleil. People from different rival blocks shared blankets and water. It was a great mixing.
It was also a time of conscience – many people saw the earthquake as a call for change, as God shaking up Haiti out of its sad status quo, as a new lease on life. Young people who had never been involved in community activities began to volunteer. People began looking for a model for change.
They found that model in La Difference, a neighborhood organization in 3BB that had been committed to neighborhood transformation since 2004. La Difference was a model community in Cite Soleil – it was clean, beautiful, and organized. In June of 2011, a few outsiders began introducing community organizations and leaders from other blocks to La Difference, and they were amazed to find like-minded individuals from different neighborhoods. After a recommendation from a man named Jason Calder from Future Generations, a meeting was organized between community leaders from 7 different blocks: 3BB, Bois Neuf, Ti Haiti, Brooklyn, Norway, Vodrey, and 1er Cite (see Founders page for the individuals). Two outsiders, Sabina Carlson and Aimee Gaines, also joined. It was to be held in Sant Pilot, a professional training school just outside of Cite Soleil, in ‘neutral’ territory.
During the meeting, community leaders were relieved and inspired when they found other people across Cite Soleil who shared the same vision – a vision of a Cite Soleil that was peaceful, clean, a place that people were proud to call home. The politics of inter-neighborhood gang warfare had often kept people from these blocks apart, but now that they were together in the same room, they realized how much they had in common. They realized that they could accomplish so much more for their communities if they broke down the barriers between the neighborhoods and learned to work together. They wanted to commit then and there to forming some sort of collective.
But the question was posed: what form would this collective take? No one in the group trusted NGOs, foundations, or political parties – these structures had all failed to bring change to Cite Soleil. Finally, someone in the meeting brought forward an idea: what if they looked into their past as Haitians, and used a structure that had served their grandparents and great-grandparents in the countryside, before the exodus to Cite Soleil? What if they based their collective on the idea of Konbit? This idea registered with everyone around the table, and so it was agreed: they would build a social movement based on the principles of Konbit, which were solidarity, reciprocity, and participation. Every time a neighborhood had a project, the other neighborhoods would chip in to help. This is the way that they would break down the barriers between the blocks one by one. They would build a new kind of Solèyan identity.
The next question was: what should they name the movement? Bwa Nef had already been looking for names for their new neighborhood organization, and they had come up with the play-on-words Solèy Leve, meaning sunrise, but also referencing Cite Soleil and a new dawn. They volunteered to give that name to the bigger collective movement, and so it was that Konbit Solèy Leve was founded - on June 25th, 2011.