The broadest perspective involves creating a baseline study of the economy of Cange and the surrounding villages to help guide future economic development in the area. For this, I will work together with the economic development project team of Clemson Engineers for Developing Countries and local entrepreneurs to create a report on the economy. This process will include conversations with locals in the market, various store owners, and those who live in smaller villages who produce (or could be producing) agricultural products to sell in Cange.
As the year progresses, I hope to work with the locals to identify possible opportunities for micro-loans that could turn into small businesses. I'm less clear about this portion, but it is something I will keep an eye out for as time progresses.
In my immediate time, I will be working with existing projects and resources that have potential for growth. First is utilizing the vacant spaces of the Zanmi Lasante compound perhaps as a university study abroad center or a bed and breakfast like retreat center for people in Port-au-Prince and the U.S.
Second is improving the sales and production at the Artisan Center here. They are in need of more outlets in the U.S. to sell their products. You can already explore and purchase their art here: haitiartisans.org They have just identified a more reliable method of shipping to the U.S. and are ready to increase production if they can get vendors in the States.
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Beyond the more obvious economic development pieces, I will be assisting the subcommittee in the formation of the town council. (Eventually I hope to be working with this council). This will essentially be the first government in Cange, and it could provide valuable services to the community that can advance the standard of living.
Finally, I hope to work with the youth committee and encourage their projects in the region. So far, they have created sporting events for girls, done environmental initiatives targeting deforestation and preservation, and encouraged professional development among other things. They are already inspiring the community with their work and have bigger plans for the future.
Father Kesner, the Episcopal priest here, suggested I work with them and create a multi-day retreat here in Cange including youth from all of the 19 villages in the area. The goal would be a spiritual, educational, and entertaining event that could fit well into the mission and goals of the youth committee while encouraging responsible behavior, healthy spiritual practices, and local leadership and engagement.
This seems like so much, and at this point perhaps some of this is simply optimistic brainstorming. But the people of Cange have so much pride in their community and they are engaging in projects and initiatives that have the potential enrich this community in grand ways. This is an exciting time to live in Cange.