The #KonbitBibliyotek campaign started with a simple idea: young people in Cite Soleil, Haiti’s largest ghetto, wanted a community library. Instead of going the traditional path of writing a proposal to an outside donor, they instead decided to start at home, asking their friends and neighbors (some of whom live on less than $2 a day) to contribute to this dream. The team takes a picture of each donor with their donation, whether it is money or books, and posts it on Facebook with the hashtag #KonbitBibliyotek.
While this may seem simple, it is revolutionary in several ways. First, #KonbitBibliyotek challenges us to look at people living in marginalized communities not as victims or beneficiaries, but as agents of change and donors. Second, #KonbitBibliyotek is an experiment in radical transparency – every donor and donation is published on social media, and the funds are counted in the local community radio station every Sunday, where anyone is welcome to come and sit in on the counting.
This initiative has taken off like wildfire. The campaign has been active for 19 weeks (as of the time this article is published), and already more than 2,500 people have contributed almost 1 million gourdes (about $14,000) and over 3,000 books. The Mayor of Cite Soleil has allocated land for the library, and local architects, engineers, and surveyors have all donated their time. Local musicians have made a music video for the campaign, DJs host parties whose proceeds go to the library, and the community has been organizing soccer and basketball tournaments and movie nights to raise funds. A local businessman has already promised that his company will provide the library with free internet for as long as it is standing.
This is an embodiment of an interpretation of the Haitian practice of konbit – that nothing is impossible when everyone chips in what they can. And now, after almost 5 months of local fundraising in Haiti, the volunteers at the heart of #KonbitBibliyotek have decided to open up the circle and invite people all over the world to contribute through a Global Giving crowdfunding page.
We chose Global Giving because it is a platform that is incredibly trustworthy as they vet all applicants and projects. As the group behind the #KonbtiBibliyotek project is Konbit Soley Leve, a social movement with no official registration, we had to search for a registered non-profit to back our application to Global Giving. Future Generations, an American 501c3 that has been a long-time partner of Konbit Soley Leve, volunteered to help us and partner with us on this campaign. They will collect the donation from Global Giving and will not take out any overhead – they will only take out what is needed to cover the cost of transferring the funds to Haiti. All of us involved in #KonbitBibliyotek are incredibly grateful to Future Generations for this support.
For the past five months, people across Cite Soleil and Haiti have been giving whatever they can to help transform this community vision into the reality – and now it is your turn to join the konbit! Contribute whatever you can to the Global Giving campaign, contact email@example.com to find out how you can contribute books, and share this with your friends who are interested in education, solidarity, and community-led development.