During this Black History Month, Haitian-American philanthropist and businessman, Fabrice J. Armand is focusing his time and energy on planning his 30th birthday. Unlike most of his peers who typically celebrate such a milestone by throwing a fabulous fete, Fabrice has committed himself to an unselfish purpose. Inspired by famous columnist, Liz Smith, who uses her annual birthday bash to bring attention to philanthropy, Fabrice will use his March 3rd celebration for his 2nd Annual Haiti Cherie: Pride. Love. Commitment fundraiser. The event will celebrate Haitian culture, honor those that perished during the 2010 earthquake, and raise money to benefit Wings over Haiti and the Haiti Cultural Exchange.
Fabrice became an advocate for his homeland long before the 2010 earthquake. Fabrice's intense passion for Haiti began during his formative years in Port au Prince. He came to America in his early teens but a sense of pride in his heritage kept him connected to Haiti. Fabrice was disturbed by constant media coverage of Haiti as an impoverished, third world nation teetering on social and political collapse. There was rarely an emphasis on its rich history and culture. Instead of throwing up his hands in frustration, Fabrice got involved with organizations making a positive impact. More important, he took out his address book and started a personal campaign to educate and encourage his friends as well as business contacts to invest in Haiti's future.
As part of his ongoing commitment, last December Fabrice lead a documentary film production team in Haiti to bring attention to the rebuilding efforts and spread goodwill through the New York-based Haiti is Me Campaign. Haiti is Me is a grassroots campaign aimed at engaging and empowering everyday people to help Haiti rebuild. Accompanying Fabrice on his philanthropic mission was author and Essence.com columnist Demetria L. Lucas and photographer-filmmaker Mackenten Petion.
The team spent nearly three weeks chronicling the social and economic accomplishments made after the 2010 earthquake. Their destinations included Port au Prince, Kenscoff, Les Cayes, Camp-Perrin, and Port Salute. They volunteered, visited tent camps, and interviewed diverse leaders in infrastructure rebuilding, tourism, government, education, healthcare, and agriculture. The team also met with program directors of organizations that received aid from Mr. Armand's Haiti Cherie fundraising campaign. The documentary will premier in July 2012. Thereafter, it will be available online.
Filming the documentary presented an opportunity to give dignity and respect to the daily struggle of the Haitian people. Fabrice wants people to understand that the citizens of Haiti are seeking self-sustaining job opportunities. He hopes the documentary will help spread the word that Haitians are hard working, eager, and resilient people that are not looking for a handout. The Haitian people want to earn their income and want to use their funds to uplift the nation once known as The Pearl of the Antilles. When he is confronted by people who point out the political scandals and violence in Haiti's past, he quickly tells them that he has the audacity to hope and believe that his people have a bright future. While on the trip, Fabrice noticed that the people of Haiti have more faith in their government. Fabrice and his companions attended a government function where the people were yelling their approval.
That is a sign of progress.
Fabrice is ecstatic that hospitality powerhouses such as the Marriott Corporation and Best
Western are making multimillion-dollar investments in his homeland. Miami-based entrepreneur Michael Capponi and renowned designer Donna Karan are creating job opportunities in the city of Jacmel. During Fabrice's visit celebrities such as Oprah, Neyo, Louis Farrakhan, and Kim Kardashian were using their notoriety to motivate other influential individuals and entities to see the long-term value of investing in Haiti.
During his visit, Fabrice was impressed with two locations. The waterfalls and mountainside landscapes Aux Cayes is just one example of the natural beauty of Haiti. The other area is in Furcy where Rustik, an eco-friendly resort and lounge, provides a peaceful escape into the mountains.
Fabrice hopes that five years from now Haiti will flourish as a tourist destination. He anticipates the government will continue creating job opportunities in the Northern and Southern regions of Haiti. Moreover, new investors coming to Haiti will help create sustainable job opportunities for all Haitians of all background and social classes.
Haiti's success also depends on the ability of the young people to be educated and competitive. As a person educated in his homeland as well as the United States, Fabrice admonishes Haiti's youth to focus on their education and keep their minds open to different opportunities. Traditionally, parents wanted their sons and daughters to become doctors, lawyers or architects. Youths should keep their eyes open and look into other fields that can be lucrative like marketing, engineering, hospitality management, tourism, and design. Fabrice would like colleges and universities in countries such as the United States, France, Spain, and Canada to create exchange programs so the flow of knowledge and discourse can continue.
Fabrice is looking forward to using his birthday to celebrate Haiti for many years to come. He remains optimistic that the sacrifice and fortitude of Haiti's people will move them towards a bright and brilliant future.