A joint initiative between the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the KANPE Foundation recently kicked off with a memorable cocktail soiree at the Montreal Science Centre to raise funds for a major project, Terroir, to support the agricultural sector and farmers in Haiti. Many of the city’s young professionals in attendance will fulfill ambassador positions integral to the program’s development over the next decade. Former Governor General of Canada Michaëlle Jean – who arrived in Canada in 1968 as a refugee from Haiti – lent her support for the initiative throughout the evening, while we had a chance to catch up with renowned radio and television host Isabelle Racicot – herself a Canadian with Haitian roots and the evening’s official MC – to talk a bit about her own personal connection to the issue and its importance.
Why is Terroir important for all three participating countries?
I think Canada, Israel and Haiti know the world is stronger through association, not division.
What is your personal attachment to the cause?
I’m Canadian, with Haitian roots, and I love Haiti. And, having been to Israel twice, I really feel a connection to the Holy Land and its people. To see three countries I love coming together is a beautiful thing and it makes my participation to the event as an MC a treat.
What are some of the notable similarities between Israel and Haiti?
Because of their respective pasts, both countries understand the urgency to live to the fullest every day and to make things happen, without procrastination. Historically, there are also ties that go as far back as before the creation of Israel to as recently as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. There is definitely a loving and respectful relationship between both countries.
How are young professionals becoming engaged in the agricultural program?
Since it’s a partnership between two organizations – CFHU and KANPE – young professionals will be encouraged to become ambassadors and supporters of the program. We chose an agricultural training program because being able to feed oneself and to have a strong agricultural sector will solve of many other problems in Haiti – and that young professionals can understand and relate to.
Where do you see the program five years from now?
In five years I see annual delegations of Israeli experts training agricultural students in Haiti as well as 3-5 Haitians a year being trained in Israel.
In what other ways can communities work together to improve life in countries like Haiti?
This project is a good example where two communities have come together to leverage their connections – CFHU is connected to the Hebrew University and KANPE is already involved in Haiti. We are not reinventing the wheel or creating something new; everything is already in place and ready to go, we just need the funds! Other groups can come together and use the same model of leveraging contacts and structures.
What are some tangible goals you hope to achieve by the end of the program?
By the end of the program, after 10 years, we hope to have a network of trained people in Haiti working and supporting each other with a direct line to their teachers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Second photo courtesy CFHU
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