Carla Bluntschli (with her best and oldest Haitian friend, Madame Antoine)
“IN THE SAME SOUP” interview with Madame Antoine and Carla Bluntschli by David Gutnick of CBC November 2010
Co-founder and Executive Director
I came to Haiti with my husband, Ron, and our 3 young daughters in 1985 as a MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) volunteer. The experiences of living on a hospital compound in a sea of Haitian agricultural villages for 3 years then to an extremely isolated rural mountain community where I homeschooled our children for almost 3 years. For the last 2 years, Ron and I were administrative assistants in the capital during politically turbulent times which was intensely educational and cracked open vistas of new truths and realities that turned many understandings of mine upside down. After leaving MCC, I co-founded an organization where for 17 years together with Haitian associates we worked with human rights groups, university study tours, journalists, documentary filmmakers, researchers, and others from around the world to offer eye-opening perspectives that I had learned in my first 10 years here in Haiti. I am indebted to the patience and tenderness granted to me and our family that has nourished this quest for more truth of our mutual histories with the belief that reparative and healing relationships are possible and inspired by Haiti’s struggle and courage.
Our family today, 3 daughters and families:
Youth Movement for Relations between Haiti and Visitors
MJRAV stands for “Mouvman Jèn pou Relasyon Ayiti ak Vizitè” which means in English “Youth Movement for Relations between Haiti and Visitors”
Created August 25, 2009, MJRAV is an organization formed by three young men reflecting on the historical and cultural situation in their country. They had the idea to build a bridge between Haiti and all other nations desiring to offer everything in their country in a positive way, to help foreigners have a different perception of their country and help them participate in the huge healing process that many people are searching for in Haiti, consciously or unconsciously. These three men were aware that most Haitians don’t know that this healing is necessary for any kind of sustainable progress and development for their country and believe this is absolutely an essential first step.
MJRAV searches for healing for all of the traces of slavery left in the lives of Haitians and Haiti’s society. This is the responsibility not only for Haiti, but especially all those countries that were involved in the transatlantic slave trade.
The MJRAV fellow love this work because they believe it is a work of blessing in teaching about their own culture in the midst of so many misunderstandings and a work that puts us in relationship and harmonization with other nations.
Association of Women in Solidarity for the Advancement of the Haitian Culture
AFSAKA “Asosyasyon Fanm Solidè pou Avansman Kilti Ayisyen” in English means “Association of Women in Solidarity for the Advancement of the Haitian Culture” is a local group of young women created March 22, 2012.
AFSAKA is a group of 4 Haitian women, who saw the value of working towards bringing value to the Haitian culture in the eyes of the country as well as for foreigners. Also showing the importance of natural products as well as to be trained to produce crafts to offer visitors.
AFSAKA takes pleasure in teaching visitors about the culture, teaching them traditional ways such as: the technology of washing by hand, the traditional way of braiding hair, and providing practical experience in making traditional recipes. AFSAKA also teaches visitors traditional games and share about their lives as women such as in education, gender roles, and traditional relationships. The women of ASKAKA participate in the historical drama/mime “3 Innocents and a spirit” to teach about the tri-continental history.
AFSAKA is enjoys when people come knowing that when visitors finally arrive in Haiti, they will be able to understand their country differently from what they learned at home. Visitors will see and experience that it’s not how they were told in their home. This sometimes produces a big change in their perspective and mentality. AFSAKA is proud to participate in this positive change for the image of their country.
Madame Antoine Theus
The Theus and Bluntschli families go back to January 19th, 1985 the first day when the Bluntschli’s arrived in Haiti at the MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) guesthouse where Madame Antoine was the friend and cook for the country representatives at the time. She has worked for guesthouses for over 40 years but for more than 30 years, our friendship has deepened and grown. Visiting groups are treated to her feasts of Haitian delights, including a rival to any donut you can find in the states!
Luckner “Weka” Ciceron
All of our groups get to be driven by long-time associate of N a Sonje,“Weka” (Weka is his nick name, his birth name is Luckner Ciceron). Weka grew up in the Artibonite Valley where the Bluntschli family first landed so he has been part of the family for many years. He is standing with a trophy given to him by a group of visitors from Wisconsin after he drove for them and they were so impressed. They labeled the trophy with the “Best driver in the world”! His son, Castro, the apple of his eye,was fascinated as well!
Development Leader for Micro-Credit
Sainticene “Leres” Sidort has been a part of the Bluntschli extended family circle since Ron was working with him in the reforestation program with MCC since 1985. Carla is godmother to his second daughter who now has finished nursing school. Leres has been involved for over 30 years in agricultural and cooperative development with a specialty in micro-credit. He travels into the capital once a month to work with the hand full of women to manage these ongoing loans here in Gwo Jan.
IN COUNTRY BOARD MEMBERS:
Song writer, guitarist, and lead vocalist of 2 Roots he is also a screenwriter, painter, the father of one daughter studying medicine in the Dominican Republic but most passionately, Mona is the earthquake camp coordinator for the camp called “Mozayik”. Watch this documentary film was produced about the unjust evictions that these people has suffered twice since the earthquake (www.snagfilms.com/films/title/mozayik and www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ttJjPXVdo0). He tours the US to raise funds for the people of Mozayik and recently purchased agricultural land to rebuild their lives living off the land. Watch the video filmed on location at Mozayik of his song about housing rights commissioned by Mennonite Central Committee for their video on housing rights in Haiti (www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bLv1vQdleY&feature=share).
Lead guitarist and backup vocalist in the band 2 Roots Ron has a master’s degree in agronomy from Colorado State University and over 20 years of experience in agriculture and community development in Haiti. He translates documents for NGO’s and is currently writing his autobiography. When not playing lead guitar with 2 Roots, he plays in the instrumental band: Dreadman Band with Welele and Najee and seasonally cares for small tire gardens. He is a scientist and teacher by nature, father of 3 daughters, husband of one lady and a someday author.
“Najee” or Michelet Calice
Bassist for 2 Rasin Najee is an accomplished artist and musician of all genres, a guitarist, bassist, vocalist, and song writer of social justice for his people. His hands and spirit create art from almost any medium, he is a rock sculptor, innovator of recycled tin art, painter, and proud father of one upcoming ballerina star of 9 years old!
Link to ETSY page: www.etsy.com/shop/ArtbyNajeeDread
“Welele” Raymond Noel
Master drummer, Welele is a master drummer and a drum professor, percussionist of all types, choreographer and dance instructor, documentary film technician, published poet, and Haitian television host for traditional “ra ra” music. He has performed internationally including the Duluth symphony orchestra and nationally with international renowned author and poet, Franketienne. He is proud of his people’s spiritual tradition as well as a researcher of the ancient rhythms of the land of Haiti and an innovator of writing the complicated language of the Haitian drum. Welele is also a free-lance journalist/photographer.
Rocky has been a part of the N a Sonje team since 2015. Rocky is 30 years old and is originally from Cayes. He’s an experienced professional as radio technician, a professor of languages, an innovator in business and marketing with “Innovart”, distributer of “N ap Share” [link], experienced in permaculture, logistics and administrator of “OPAPAM” Rocky is a much sought after for his confidentiality, his punctuality and his total cooperation in whatever he does!
US ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS:
Co-founder of the N a Sonje Foundation
Djalòki is an Interfaith Minister ordained by The New Seminary, an initiated Haitian Vodou priest, an engineer, and a cross-cultural communication facilitator who believes that he is an immortal spirit experiencing the human condition in order to evolve in consciousness. He has lived, studied and worked for 25 years in various countries in the Global South – including Haiti, Nicaragua and Senegal, and in the Global North – including Belgium, France and Canada, where he was adopted as a member of a small tribe of the Micmac nation. He has led hundreds of international learning visits, many of them in Haiti, and has also been part of transformative learning trips within the US as a participant with Faith and Money Network. Djalòki is a regular meditator. He speaks French, Haitian Creole, English, Spanish (and computer…). He lives in Silver Spring, MD, with his wife, Diane, who is an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ.
Ingrid C. Askew
Ingrid Askew is an African American actress, stage director, educator, and cultural activist., Ms. Askew lived in Cape Town, South Africa for ten years where she has run drama, storytelling, and writing programs for South African youth and hosted American artists to create art and performance projects with Cape Town youth. she has also worked in schools and community groups in the US. Ms. Askew is co-founder and director of the historic year long walk known as the Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage: Retracing the Journey of Slavery; 1998-1999. The pilgrimage retraced the Transatlantic slave route in reverse from the United States, the Caribbean (it was when the Pilgrimage came to Hait that Ingrid met Carla) and Brazil to West Africa, and ending in South Africa. Over fifty walkers from the United States, Japan, Chile, the UK, France and Australia accompanied her on that historic journey. The Pilgrimage is featured in the PBS series This Far by Faith: African American Spiritual Journeys. After the pilgrimage, Ms. Askew settled in Cape Town S. Africa where she continues her work with Performing artists and activists through her newly formed initiative Crossing the Waters Institute for Cultural (CTWI) an international exchange program that offers opportunities for cultural connections between the United States and the African Diaspora. CTWI is proud to partner with N a Sonje through in service learning programs. Ms. Askew’s work in theatre and cultural activism has always been inspired by the goal of bringing people of diverse backgrounds together to build community and to work for social change. Crossing the Waters Institute for Cultural Exchange: www.crossingthewatersinstitute.org
Rev. Diane Ford Dessables, M.Div., M.S.
Rev. Diane Ford Dessables for eight years has been working as a domination relations and public church engagement specialist advocating for public policy advancement for and with impoverished people in a national nonprofit that aims to end hunger and poverty. Diane is also UCC ordained clergy. She has been a servant leader in ministry for 25 years. And she has preached Afro-American liberation theology across the nation calling for peace with justice and the end of oppression of dim empowered people world-wide. She has great reverence and respect for the Haitian people, it’s culture, and the history of slavery and perseverance that they have which she shares in common with them.
Culturally sensitive, impact-driven, nonprofit manager with more than twenty years of experience developing and backstopping dialogue-based, community mobilization programs to drive social change. Strong capacities in program start-up, leadership development, project management, workshop facilitation, and grant procurement & accountability. Deeply committed to education equity, preventing violence against children, and preventing violence against women and girls. Coleen is Grants Director with Beyond Borders, a non-profit organization working in Haiti to support the movements to end child slavery and prevent violence against women and girls.
David W. Porter, BFA, MA-AT is Professor of Fine Art and the Program Coordinator for the Visual Arts Program at Keystone College in La Plume, Pennsylvania, United States. He has over 20 years of publication design experience having worked in leadership roles for several U.S. newspapers and magazines, 10 years as an art therapist having worked as mobile art therapist, and 16 years as an art educator at the collegiate level having developed curricula, taught primarily in the graphic design concentration, and provided faculty leadership at Keystone College. He encourages his students to develop into “citizen designers” by working with service partners in his community both locally and in internationally. Since 2003 he has provided eight private faculty-led study-abroad travel experiences for students, faculty, alumni, and community members to Haiti in partnership with and hosted by N a Sonje and has also hosted these partners in the U.S. at Keystone College.
Tony Pressly Sanon
Dr. Toni Pressley-Sanon is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Africology and African American Studies at Eastern Michigan University. She received her PhD from the Department of African Languages and Literatures with a minor in Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She then held a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Africana Research Center at Penn State University.