About 18 months ago, while volunteering in Port-au-Prince after Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake, I met a man named Carlo Diy. I was lucky enough to work directly with Carlo and, during conversations shared in exhausted moments amid general chaos, I remember being struck by his gentle calm. Carlo volunteered for 18 months at NPH Haiti in 2007-08, is fluent in Haitian Creole, and has a profound love for Haiti and the Haitian people. Today Carlo is based in North Carolina, USA and has recently devoted himself full-time to improving development outcomes in Haiti through his social enterprise, HaitiHub.
Haiti has the second highest number of NGOs per capita in the world. Post-earthquake there has been massive influx of foreign aid workers to Port-au-Prince and their organisations exert phenomenal influence on Haiti’s recovery process and development. There currently exists a disconnect between foreign aid workers and the Haitians they have come to help. Carlo has a simple solution to this problem – teach them Creole.
Springing from his belief that international volunteers must be able to communicate effectively with local people if they are to achieve the best outcomes for Haiti, Carlo has created an online, interactive course designed specifically to help full-time volunteers and aid workers working in Haiti to learn Haitian Creole (and also open for anyone else who has an interest in the language and a desire to learn).
Once he realised that an opportunity existed to provide interactive language learning of Haitian Creole, a language that is considered far too niche to be financially relevant for the language learning giants such as Rosetta Stone and Berlitz, Carlo busied himself with the practicalities: designing an 8-session Creole conversation course, choosing a name, buying a domain name (he used Go Daddy but there are many other website registration and hosting services available), and building a simple website (with help from his sister, who Carlo describes as a self-taught web genius). Creole classes were offered free of charge, communication was via email, and classes were taught using the free conference call service in Skype.
From these humble beginnings HaitiHub has grown. No sooner had the first 8-session course begun in December 2009, than Port-au-Prince was struck by the devastating January 12 earthquake. Carlo cut the course short to return to Haiti and help translate and manage logistics. A month later he came home to an inbox bursting at the seams with people wanting to learn Creole. Since then Carlo has taken HaitiHub from strength to strength. He is a StartingBloc Fellow, and has recently been part of a business accelerator programme called the Startup Stampede in Durham, North Carolina where HaitiHub is now based.
While it may still be early days for HaitiHub, Carlo is learning a lot in the process. He stresses the importance of not being too precious with your idea or worrying about getting the credit, and always remembering to say thank you: “Thank yous for people are like water for plants,” according to Carlo. He also argues that the only qualification a person needs to do something, is the desire to do it: “In this day in age, with access to every kind of information online and so many tools at our disposal, if you want to do something you don’t need a PhD or a MBA or a MD; you need a JFDI (just f’ing do it).”
I asked Carlo what advice he would give to other people who want to make a difference or have a social project in mind. He says:
1. Simply begin. Your goals will be achieved one task at a time, one day at a time.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
3. It’s all about love: “You have to love what you do whether you make money at it or not, and whether other people notice you doing it or not. You have to love it for your reasons or you won’t be able to stick with it.”
At just 26 years old, Carlo has recently taken the bold step of quitting his “day job” to devote himself 100% to HaitiHub. He has his own reasons for working on the hub, whether or not it ever “gets big”, and he is passionate about contributing to a better future for Haiti.