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Solar (em)powered: Partnerships benefit Haitians, Hoosiers

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It started as an attempt to reconnect with her heritage and lead to a commitment to fight for sustainable social change in her mother’s birth country. When Jean-Paul Weaver first visited Haiti to study folkloric dance in 2015, she found a country full of paradoxes. On one hand, it was immeasurably beautiful, with scenic beaches and engaging culture. When Weaver came face-to-face with the devastation left behind from the earthquake of 2010, she knew that her adventure would not end after returning home. Haiti was her homeland, and it would soon become her mission field.  

Jean-Paul Weaver


The Dreaming: A benefit festival for solar power in Haiti

-March 1 at 7 p.m.

-Indy Convergence, 2611 W. Michigan St. 

-$10 suggested donation

“I’m half American and half Haitian, and I wanted to do something to bring these two heritages together,” said Weaver when asked what inspired the trip. “(I saw) miles of people living in tents, displaced from the earthquake. The conditions were still looking like the earthquake had hit that month. To be Haitian and to see those things is not the same experience as being American. It was not like ‘this is how it is here’ to me, it’s like, ‘how is this still possible?’”

After returning to the U.S., Weaver founded The Selke-Dimanche Project, its name honoring the legacies of relatives who immigrated to America generations’ prior. The Selke-Dimanche Project is a network of American and Haitian nonprofits working together to provide resources to Haitians and to teach Americans sustainable ways to support the developing world. Their most recent initiative, The Thunderstone Project, was inspired by Weaver’s most recent trip to Haiti in 2017, where she saw neighborhoods reduced to rubble after Hurricane Matthew. The Thunderstorm Project aims to ship 2,000 solar panels from France to arts and education centers in Haiti including Dance to Save Lives and Kingdom Kids International.

“Each of these (organizations) are Haitian-led and focused on empowering Haitians to rebuild through education, sustainability, arts and above all protecting the children,” said Kimberly Milfort, a local Haitian-American who recently joined the Selke-Dimanche Project. Milford and Weaver say their goal is to give Hoosiers opportunities to invest their currency more equitably into the developing national world.

The Selke-Dimanche Project is a network of American and Haitian nonprofits working together to provide resources to Haitians and to teach Americans sustainable ways to support the developing world.

Opportunities to invest are ample in Indianapolis. On March 1, the Selke-Dimanche Project will host The Dreaming, a benefit festival for solar power in Haiti full of poetry, music, dance, appetizers and drinks. The event will take place at Indy Convergence, 2611 West Michigan St., at 6 p.m. As of press time, featured artists include spoken word performer Manon Voice, poet Ronald Lora-Castillo and Weaver preforming contemporary voodoo folklore and dance. There is a $10 suggested donation at the door.

Watson George is one of the founders of the Beyond Me Initiative. Learn more at livebeyondyou.org.

Other opportunities to support Haiti are being spearhead by local couple Watson and Madison George who live in Anderson, Indiana. Both born in Haiti, Watson lost his biological mother at the age of two and Madison lost her biological mother at age 11. After being adopted by American parents, their paths crossed while attending the same university in Indiana. They founded the Beyond Me Initiative, a nonprofit that uses asset-based community development to support local initiatives in Haiti.  They give Americans a taste of Haitian culture by selling food and apparel, and they work with entrepreneurs in Haiti to create jobs.

“I cater Haitian food in Indianapolis and the surrounding area and Watson handles the marketing and music aspects of Beyond Me,” said Madison. “Living beyond you means that we all use and share our natural gifts and creative capacities, and engage culture to make a difference in the world.”

The Georges feel giving back has helped them grow as individuals and as a couple while cultivating their own gifts and the gifts of their team members, many of whom are college students who opted to get involved as a part of campus clubs.

Weaver hopes local partnerships will help the narrative surrounding Haiti move beyond the poverty and devastation that is often portrayed in the media. She hopes Hoosiers who get involved will recognize Haiti as a powerful, resilient country with a rich history and culture.

“Haiti is a place where these radical Black people dreamed of a world where there was not slavery. They acted on those dreams to become the first Black republic and (one of) the only successful slave rebellions in documented human history,” said Weaver. “Culturally speaking and agriculturally speaking, Haiti is one the wealthiest countries in the world and has the ability to be a global power. There were actions made to dismantle Haiti’s abilities to be self-sufficient.”

The people involved in these organizations have learned, when one seeks to make a difference, they get more than they give. 

“The project has helped me connect to my heritage… getting to know the people leading Kingdom Kids, Jakmel Ekspresyon and Dance to Save Lives has been eye opening. (I had the opportunity) to see the innovation and creativity that comes from my father’s home country that I hadn’t been previously exposed to,” said Milfort. “The beautiful cultural capital that comes from Haiti in the form of art can really enrich Indianapolis and help us learn lessons about sharing, science in the form of spirituality, innovation and sustainability that we could never learn on our own.”

To learn more about the Selke-Dimanche Project, visit facebook.com/SelkeDimanche. To learn more about the Beyond Me Initiative visit facebook.com/livebeyondyou.


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