FOKAL (Foundation for Knowledge and Liberty) supports 35 community libraries throughout Haiti from Port-Salut to Pestel to Port-au-Prince to Cap-Haitian. From its humble beginnings, it has grown to be an organization that also supports arts and culture programming, has a debate program, and supports grassroots initiatives and water projects. How has this organization impacted Haiti and through its work strengthened the roots of a healthy society?
The Library’s Hispanic Division will sponsor a day-long symposium, “Libraries and Human Development in Haiti: The Work of Fondation Connaissance et Liberté (FOKAL)” from 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 10
, in LJ 119 on the first floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C. This event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. Contact Cynthia Acosta at (202) 707-2013, [email protected]
Speakers include leaders in the area of Haitian socio-economics, FOKAL officials and individuals who have benefited from the organization’s programs.
Aryeh Neier, president of the Open Society Institute, will discuss reasons for creating a national foundation in Haiti and the accomplishments of FOKAL. Michèle Montas, spokesperson for the United Nations secretary-general and a journalist who, with her husband Jean Dominique, led Radio Haiti-Inter, will talk about the creation of FOKAL and her personal involvement in specific initiatives of the foundation. Michel Péan, secretary of state for the integration of the handicapped in Haiti, will speak on the partnership between the National Haitian Association for the Blind and FOKAL and the challenges of his current work as secretary of state. Gaston Jean, leader of Asosyasyon Orijiné Granplèn/Oganizasyon Peyizan Pou Devlopman Granplèn (AOG-OPDG), will talk about the partnership between FOKAL and AOG-OPDG and about challenges facing peasant organizations today in Haiti.
Jeanguy Saintus, founder and artistic director of Haitian Dance Company “Ayikodans,” will discuss the difficulties of working as an artist in Haiti, the unique quality of partnership with FOKAL and the commitment of many artists in the country to continue to fight to build a better future for all, using culture and creation as a vector. Pierre Paul J.C. Fouché, a doctorate student in civil engineering at the State University of New York in Buffalo, will present a talk on the different FOKAL programs he has participated in since high school and while attending university, and his work experience as a member of the FOKAL community library team, his current studies and his commitment to return to Haiti upon completing his degree. Michèle D. Pierre-Louis, executive director of FOKAL, and Lorraine Mangonès, deputy director of FOKAL, will speak on the creation and management of FOKAL since 1995, the community library program and other special projects of the foundation.
Since 1995, FOKAL has developed and maintained programs that have established community libraries and a youth program within the libraries based upon formal oratory debates; supported artists in the visual arts, dance and music, and Haitian literature and Haitian publishing houses; created the TiPa TiPa (Step by Step) program of child centered education used in kindergartens and primary schools; initiated economic education based upon a version of Junior Achievement; and engaged with grass-roots agricultural efforts and water resource issues. The FOKAL Cultural Center in Port-au-Prince houses a library, auditorium, atrium art gallery, gardens, café and cybercafé. Here children living in extreme poverty have access to life-changing resources and ideas.