Disaster Brings Haitian Americans Back Home

Young people with Haitian roots were drawn to their homeland after the earthquake two years ago.

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"From March 2010 to September 2010, we housed 30 volunteers every two weeks," Darguin says. "That's 60 visitors a month." And in 2011 that number was just over 300, many of whom were Haitian Americans, returning back to the island to provide expertise in areas like education, construction, microfinance and agriculture.

Yet Darguin insists that there are even greater possibilities and room for more to get involved. He understands the appearance of disconnect that may have existed between Haitians abroad and their countrymen in the homeland for decades; however, he feels that the current condition of the country creates a new occasion for Haiti to build a superior legacy.

"For our parents' generation, Haiti is the place they were forced to flee from in search of a better life. So for [many of Haitian descent], visiting Haiti was often discouraged because it was the land their parents had left behind."

But for those who remain in the trenches long after the media coverage is gone, according to Darguin, Haiti will remember them as the true heroes of the recovery.

For Armand, his commitment to rebuilding Haiti has been just as reflective.

Born and raised on the island, Armand moved to New York at the age of 15. He attended St. John's University, where he completed a bachelor's degree in legal studies and a master's in international relations. He has worked in the marketing industry for the past 10 years, including at the American Civil Liberties Union, where he spearheaded the organization's fundraising initiatives.

As a member of the executive committee of the Global Syndicate, an international fundraising network of professionals with a history of involvement in Haiti, Armand raised more than $300,000 for relief efforts after the earthquake. Although he continues to reside in New York, Armand's vision for his homeland hasn't swayed. 

"I used to go back to Haiti every two years before the tragedy," he says, "but my most recent trip on Dec. 15 was my longest since the earthquake -- I was there for 21 days."

Having felt compelled to raise the bar on how he would further devote his talents, Armand's new project is a documentary called Haiti Is Me, aimed at bringing dignity back to the people by chronicling little-known economic, cultural and social advancements made by Haitians that the international mainstream press has failed to cover -- a dignity that he believes is vital for the new generation of Haitians to see if Haiti is ever to be restored as the "Pearl of the Antilles." 

Armand hopes that the documentary, which he is currently shopping to U.S. film distributors for a June 2012 release, will help alleviate what he believes is one of the country's biggest Achilles' heels -- tourism.