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A lot of people have been wondering why you are seeing so many photos on facebook with people holding up dollar bills and gourdes with the hashtag #konbitbiblyotek. Here is the story behind those photos:

A group of young intellectuals in Cite Soleil called FACHaiti decided that young people in Cite Soleil needed a library, a place to find books and to study and exchange ideas. While there is the amazing youth space at SAKALA, it is on the edge of town and these young people wanted to build something closer to the heart of Cite Soleil. They got together and identified a one-room building in the heart of Cite Soleil, and found that the owner was willing to sell it to them for 500,000 gourdes (about US$7500).

They asked Robi how they could go about raising the funds. He advised them that instead of writing to potential donors who could easily write a single check for 500,000 gourdes, they should start with a different set of donors: their community. If they wanted people to feel ownership over the space, they should start out with a practice that Haitians call marathon, going door to door to collect contributions. If the community couldn’t raise all of the funds themselves, FACHaiti could always look for people to fill the gap, but they had to start with local resources.

And so the group started off with a few hundred gourdes left over from the last community fundraising campaign, for the magazine Konbit Soley Leve: 5 Ans de Konbit. With just a cardboard box, they began going around to schools and churches to ask for contributions and were overwhelmed with the positive response. People chipping in everything from 5 gourdes (about 7 cents) to 100 gourdes (about US$1.50). Others contributed books. This is significant in an area with almost total unemployment where most people struggle to make ends meet from day to day in the unpredictable informal economy.

And then it began to catch on with social media. People not only wanted to give, but they wanted to share that they had given. People began to take pictures of their contributions as they were giving them, with the hashtag #konbitbiblyotek. As the story spread, contributions came from more unexpected sources. Children at an elementary school in Cite Soleil gave their lunch money to the effort. Motorcycle drivers in other towns heard about the initiative and chipped in a bit from their gas money. Friends from other neighborhoods and other countries began to contribute as well.

So what you are seeing on Facebook is a digital form of Konbit: many people working together to accomplish what they could not do alone. And if you want to join your hands to this effort, you can get in contact with Robi at and contribute we can give you information about how to give books or donate through PayPal.

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