It was a simple and impossible idea: build a library in Cite Soleil, Haiti’s largest ghetto, entirely through community contributions. Crowd-source thousands of dollars in a place where formal employment is rare, where a lack of credit cards make online platforms like Kickstarter impractical, and where foreign aid agencies pay for most major infrastructure. But this was the idea behind #KonbitBibliyotek, launched by young people in Cite Soleil just two months ago: if enough people join together in solidarity and transparency, they can accomplish the impossible. You can learn more about the origins of this initiative here.
In the first 8 weeks, the momentum has continued to build: 1,304 people have contributed a total of 527,122 gourdes (approximately $7,530 US) and 1,406 books. The vast majority of those donors are people from Cite Soleil, but other contributions have come from the Haitian towns such as Les Cayes, Jeremie, and St Raphael, and from as far away as Slovenia, Brazil, and Afghanistan.
Cite Soleil’s local authorities have stepped up too: the mayor and deputy officially designated a piece of land in Place Fierte, the public park in the heart of Cite Soleil, for the future library.
The media has also begun to join in: so far, three national radio stations have broadcast about #KonbitBibliyotek, and Robi was invited to discuss the initiative on one of Haiti’s most popular television talkshows, Kalfou on TeleGinen.
Kako, a famous Haitian artist, lent a mobile screen and sound system to the committee. They went around almost every block in Cite Soleil, playing the music video for #KonbitBibliyotek, answering questions, and collecting donations.
Gardy Girault, one Haiti’s most respected and innovative DJs, hosted a second show in Petionville in which a portion of the proceeds will go to #KonbitBibliyotek.
Others are giving away bracelets marked #KonbitBibliyotek in exchange for a contribution, which have ranged from 25 gourdes to 1000 gourdes.
In these first eight weeks, #KonbitBibliyotek has challenged assumptions about who is a beneficiary and who is a donor. One doesn’t have to be rich to contribute financially to improving their community, their country, or their world. Given the opportunity, thousands of people are willing and able to give what they can – whether it is 5 gourdes, 500 dollars, or a 5-minute song.
And this is only the beginning. If you would like the opportunity to participate in this konbit, in whatever way you can, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.