Baudeler “Bobo” Magloire is Sanitation Director/Deputy Operations Director of SOIL: Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods. (Many thanks to Leah Nevada Page for conducting the interview in Haitian Creole and translating into English. Ms. Page was interviewed last week.)
How can foreigners help improve conditions in Haiti?
I encourage everyone to come to Haiti, but please do not bring aid and do not bring humanitarian gifts. Instead bring investments in the country or new technologies or ideas that can help us create long-term change. Emergency aid disappears in a few months and leaves in its place a situation that is worse. Rather, we believe that when people come with new technologies and durable solutions, we can work together to ameliorate the problems Haiti is facing.
We also ask that when you come to work here, you come to work with your heart because it is with your heart that we have a true chance of reducing the misery in Haiti. Come with humanity and come work with your heart.
What are the problems you’ve seen in Haiti?
The issues in Haiti are political, social, and economic. When the political situation is not good, the social and economic situations cannot be good. We also have a small problem of insecurity in the country, and this is rooted in our political problem.
This insecurity causes instability that is negatively affecting everyone and making it difficult for people to find stable work and a stable way to feed their families. When people can’t work, they can’t find food. Little children are washing cars in the street, people are crying, people are going to bed hungry.
We need to improve the political, social, and economic systems of our country so we can create a place where everyone can find a job. When people can find a job, they can find the means to live.
In your opinion, what is the most important part of SOIL’s work?
The important change SOIL is bringing is really with our system of composting waste treatment. With compost we’re helping people access sanitation services, but we’re also helping to improve the agricultural situation in Haiti.
How did you get involved with SOIL?
This is a beautiful story.
I had an experience before of working with peasant organizations and community organizations in the city where I am from, Milot. In 2000, I became a member of my local government authority (CASEC) in order to support the community where I was living.
But after 2004, after the coup against Aristide, everyone who was a supporter of Aristide was obligated to go into hiding for we would have been killed if they had found us.
In this year, Sasha [Kramer, Executive Director of SOIL] came to Haiti to observe the human rights situation and she came and found us in Milot. She witnessed our situation.
After the election, in 2006, the situation in Haiti calmed down and Sasha started to speak with us as the ecologist she is trained to be, not just as a human rights observer. She asked us what changes we wanted to see in our country.
We spoke about the lack of sanitation in Haiti, and we also spoke about the need to improve local agricultural production. We all sat together and came up with the idea of SOIL, and since that day we have been working together on ecological sanitation.
How can other people get involved with SOIL?
When people want to become involved, they should know that SOIL is a work of the heart, for the heart, and for the people. Yes, there is a small salary, it is our job, but our primary goal is to help the country. We don’t have big economic means, but we have a big vision.
And as the Haitian expression says, “Nou spageti” / “We are spaghetti.” (Meaning just as strands of spaghetti are woven together, we too have come together in support of one vision.)
This is our force. With collective effort, we all together will achieve big dreams.
SOIL brings together locals and foreigners, as well as people with different educational backgrounds. What has been your experience working with this diverse group of people?
We don’t really see a difference between people with different backgrounds or from different countries. Over the years we have had the privilege to receive many people at SOIL, and we have been so happy to see how many students continue to come and work with us again and again.
I believe that people only need to respect one another. People who come to work with SOIL have learned many things and they have helped us learn also. This encourages us to work better and to advance.
How does SOIL work with other organizations?
We have many organizations that work with us. SOIL is bringing a very new technology in Haiti. Before SOIL started building ecological sanitation (EcoSan) toilets, there was no EcoSan technology in Haiti. Since the beginning, but especially after cholera arrived in Haiti, many organizations have been interested in SOIL’s work. EcoSan is a technology that has the potential to help us overcome the cholera epidemic in Haiti. We host many educational events in order to help these other organizations spread EcoSan technologies.
When one has such a beautiful idea as this, they cannot keep it all to themselves. It has the potential to help all sectors: the government, businesses, community groups, etc. We always want to help others advance, and we appreciate when other organizations help us advance. We need to welcome in everyone to come together with us to make this beautiful idea happen everywhere in our country.
What does “mindful teaching” mean to you? Do you have a mindfulness practice, and if so, how does it help you in your work?
I always make an effort to work with my heart. This motivation encourages me to work hard as does the positive changes I can see as a result of SOIL’s work in Haiti. Tomorrow I will be even prouder that I am Haitian because of the beautiful changes we’re making happen in my country. And I also enjoy the respect that we find in SOIL - from my boss to the people who work for me at SOIL - we all respect one another.
When we find the value of our work and we find respect in our work, this helps encourage me to keep working. I should not forget to add that when a person has a good job everyone in his family is happy too. The only thing that I wish is for that I could work harder and give more to this organization.
Translator’s note: I worked hard to capture the full content and intention of Bobo’s words, but I’m afraid that several times my language skills – in both Creole and English - came up short against Bobo’s eloquent and heartfelt words. – L. Page
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