Tag Archive for: haiti


The Oshun Project – Rigorous Contribution to Haiti



At-ten-TION! For-ward MARCH! Pre-sent ARMS!

One may associate these strict military commands with the rigor you experience when you have Akeisha Johnson on your team as Team 2 Team Lead. She has her collection of all Team, Management, & Leadership Program (TMLP) design statements, Communication distinctions, and any tool you need at her fingertips ready to pass along to someone unknowingly craving for the information. She interrupts conversations, an accepted common practice from Team 2’s, to insert the integrity that’s missing. Nothing is left ambiguous with Akeisha holding us accountable.

Imagine what you can accomplish using this rigor in your life outside of Landmark. Akeisha applied her skills and tools to her Game in the World called “The Oshun Project”. The Oshun Project is a project in Haiti which empowers communities to rebuild their villages in a sustainable fashion. The first project started during her Team 1 term where she installed a water filtration system in Haiti. In partnership with Chavanes Casseus, Director of MP3K in Haiti, they provide education classes to inform the community how to best use their filtered water. Additionally, they deliver filtered water to nearby schools in the town of Rhe, Camp-Perrin.

Being unstoppable is no longer a concept for Akeisha; she experiences herself as unstoppable simply by being in action and having conversations.

I was standing in front of a group of about 100 people in rural Haiti celebrating installing a water filtration system that I caused for a community plagued with cholera and I was in tears. Realizing that I had achieved what I had envisioned 8 years prior.

When I first thought of doing projects in Haiti I was an undergrad and thought that empowering Haitians would empower me, but I had NO CLUE how I would do it. It was when I did Landmark’s SELP 6 years after I thought of the idea, that I had the blueprint for putting something together to make a difference for Haitians. In the program I identified that our work would empower communities already up to doing things. What our program would do is partner with these communities and bring sustainable resources to them. In SELP and later in team, I got coached around creating structures for what I wanted to accomplish. That’s how we installed a solar-generated filtration water system for over 15,000 people in a remote area of Haiti. Once I understood that what there was for me to do is tap into communities of people and then map a plan and take action on it, I was on my way!

Playing big games also mean we get hit with BIG breakdowns. So I ask Akeisha, “What’s the biggest breakdown you had and how did you overcome it?” Breakdowns are not experienced as breakdowns anymore for Akeisha because she’s gotten used to them and all it means is that something is missing.

Until people started dying.

During the installation of the water filtration system, it was rainy season high in the mountainous southwestern region of Haiti (specifically Rhe, Camp-Perrin). There’s a large river bed that the people in the community need to cross to access the market. The river bed overflows and they lose about 5 to 10 people every season when local Haitians cross this river bed. This was a breakdown that knocked out the rigorous, unstoppable Akeisha. She was scared and thought herself an idiot for thinking she could make a difference in a place like Haiti that had so many problems, where others have thrown their hands up and given up on. She felt responsible for the loss of these people’s lives.

Fortunately, with the skills she’s acquired through Landmark’s programs and, more importantly, her two coaches, she’s able to regain herself and get back into action. Her coach Clay Kilgore, who is also the program’s fiscal sponsor and Team SF’s former Classroom Leader, is the one who made the difference for her by reminding her of her commitment and the possibility she created. Her Team 2 coach, Elizabeth Miller, also reflected back to Akeisha her possibility and outcome. Additionally, her committed colleagues, Margaret and Bee, helped her see who she is for others.

Following this incident, she decided to expand on her project. She is now opening a market at Rhe, Camp-Perrin so the locals will have access to groceries and other necessities within their own community and taking out the necessity to cross the dreaded river bed. The market is being created as a social enterprise with the revenue going towards local school kids’ tuition.

When Akeisha first created her game, she knew it was big and didn’t think she would accomplish it. It didn’t seem real to her until she started talking to people and found team members. Akeisha and her team keep each other accountable and, a mere idea manifested into reality for herself and the families in Haiti.

The Oshun Project’s new website launches May 30th, please visit them at www.theoshunproject.com!

Photos supplied by Akeisha Johnson, with her commentary:

IMG01205-20140326-1146 (1)

Frantz St. Forte is the chief operator to the water filtration system and the Executive Secretary of MP3K, the organization The Oshun Project is partnered with in Haiti. He also conducts the educational classes to inform community members on best uses for the filtered water.

IMG01201-20140326-1144 2

Water to be delivered to local schools distributed by MP3K.


This building is where the local market will go. The building requires finishing (this is what we are working on completing now). A section of the building is where the filtration system is. Like a specific window in a store.  –Akeisha

(Building a local market in Haiti.)



A New Voice For Haiti: The Nicole Claude Show Creates Opportunities to Unite the Caribbean Community in the Midwest

Nicole Claude – Team Heartland T2, Q3

It’s Saturday afternoon in late June. A single mom gets in her Chevy in Addison, IL, a suburb 20 miles west of Chicago, and begins a new journey.

“On my way, driving to the city, I saw many fathers on their bikes with their children.  Some of the parks are closed for activities and there are block parties where families can gather and experience the special weekend,” said Nicole Claude.

It is Father’s Day 2009 – a day to celebrate family and where we come from. Claude realizes, “Since I immigrated here 35 years ago, I have not been in touch with my dad, Murat Claude.”

The irony is not lost on her. Claude is on her way to the radio studio for the premier of “The Nicole Claude Show,” an hour-long program that aims to bring the Haitian and Caribbean communities in the Midwest together.

The program is acting on a theme of separation found in many immigrants’ lives.  It is a place to give people a voice – in “English, Creole, French, and Spanish and, of course, the language of love,” Claude tells her listeners.

Claude and her co-host Victor Gulley talk about current events in Haiti, news that makes a difference, as well as events in Chicago for the Haitian community. Each week there is a guest and the topics range from Love, Health and fitness, to Wealth and financial fitness. The radio show came about as part of Claude’s participation in Landmark Education’s Team Management and Leadership Program.

The Haitian Consulate in Chicago estimates there are as many as 22,000 Haitians in the Chicago area. Community leaders estimate the numbers to be as high as 35,000.

“What’s missing is for us to have a voice,” said Claude. “One thing that is specific to the Haitian culture is speaking French and Creole.”

If you go to Florida and New York, everyone in the Haitian community still speaks their native languages, but not in the Midwest. “It’s not something we experience. We move here and lose our language. Our presence is silent in the Midwest.”

Claude was born in Port au Prince, Haiti, also known as “La Perle Des Antilles” (the pearl of the Antilles). She came to Chicago in 1974 as a teenager with her brother Ronald, joining her mother and oldest brother Jean, who immigrated to the US first.

Claude reconnected with her “terra natale” or native country on a trip in 1990. “The most memorable moment was standing in a most beautiful turquoise sea and admiring its color and vast ‘etendue’, it appears that time stood still,” said Claude. “The laughter, dances and speaking the native language, Creole, still echoes in my mind and this moment remains alive today many years later.”

So each Saturday from 9 pm to 10 pm on WSBC Access Radio Chicago, 1240 AM, Claude takes to the airwaves to unify the Haitian and Caribbean communities. “We are building multicultural opportunities, a network of people.”

Among its regular contributors are love expert Bruce Hart and medical correspondent Mary Bess Zouvas. Claude’s professional experience is in critical care nursing, occupational health and health management, so it’s no surprise health is a primary focus of the show. Marcia Lane, the executive director of the Haiti Nursing Foundation, was a recent guest.


Claude sees physical fitness and health directly tied to wealth. “Mostly we talk about health and the wealth is missing.” This is especially true in Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

“I’m taking on speaking about financial fitness,” said Claude. “Haitians are always excited, we always want to start businesses. But in Chicago we have not been successful in maintaining successful businesses, like restaurants.”

Claude lamented about not being able to get traditional Haitian cuisine in Chicago, like mais moulu – a type of corn meal served with red beans or avocado.

While she may not be able to recreate the aromas and tastes of Haiti on the radio, Claude can bring the sound of the Caribbean to Chicago listeners. The show features music from the islands including recordings made by Gulley for his theater production.

On Gulley’s recording, Nicole’s sultry, inspired voice drifts across a background of musical infinities crooning, “Love is my papa calling me ‘pipirite chantant’ [a small singing bird], love is my mom telling me that I am ‘potelé’ [healthy], love is my second mom, love is my brother Jean sending me a trousseau of clothes from the USA, love is my brother Ronald cooking for me…”

Through the love of her homeland and a commitment to her culture, Nicole Claude is giving the Haitian community an opportunity to connect with each other and its heritage. She plans to connect with her own heritage by traveling to Haiti to find out about her father and to broadcast from the island.

One of the challenges in connecting the community is actually hearing her voice over a wide area. “There are a lot of stations in Evanston [a suburb just north of Chicago] but the frequency is not strong enough to hear in my town [in the western suburbs]. My show is not able to reach everyone,” said Claude.

Her goal is to build a team of investors and vendors to create and operate a 24-hour/7-days a week radio station in Chicago dedicated to Caribbean issues that can be heard all over the Midwest.

“The future is a Caribbean voice, a Haitian voice that can be heard in Chicago,” said Claude.

For more information, or to purchase T-shirts and recordings, visit the show’s website at thenicoleclaudeshow.com/.

Written & Edited by Steve Schapiro