Turtle Tree’s mission – empowering impoverished communities to do better – has not changed over the seven year of our operations in Haiti but our strategy and approach have. From 2007 until 2010 Turtle Tree focused on economic projects, with the goal of helping rural groups to become a sustainable and autonomous community . After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the foundation became involved in training multimedia community journalists.
In the chaotic wake of the catastrophe caused by the 2010 earthquake we learned that fighting back against adversity begins with having access to trustworthy sources of information. Citizens need to have information at their disposal to arrive at collective and rational decisions. Turtle Tree started to work on the premise that a community will become better organized and more active when a form of community journalism informs the members of the community.
In response to the catastrophe in Haiti, Turtle Tree opened “Haiti Reporters”, a multimedia school in the capital. Between 2010 and 2014, the school offered a series of intensive courses to groups of young Haitians –fifteen to twenty per course – who indicated to be interested in community journalism. More than half of the students were women. Over 25% of the graduates found work in the local media.
The curriculum taught by Haiti Reporters was practical and involved the production of reports, in video or with photos, informing communities about the ups and downs of the reconstruction efforts.
For example. In a Haitian community of several hundred families, living close to a garbage disposal site, a high number of child mortality and illnesses in general were found. We had the drinking water tested. The well had been built on the site itself by a government agency about twenty years ago. The tests showed that the drinking water was very contaminated, carrying typhus and cholera. A video reportage about this research including a confrontation with the authorities about the test results, gave the community a platform to take action.
Turtle Tree wants to continue contributing to media reinforcement and media training. Several potential institutional partners in Haiti have been invited to collaborate and expand on a curriculum that would provide Haitian students with the intellectual background and the techniques to produce solid journalistic reports. No such education is available in the entire country at this moment.