I got the chance to converse with Marie Yolaine Eusebe, a humanitarian, speaker and founder of Community2Community (C2C), a non-profit organization dedicated to building self-sufficient communities in Haiti; and during our wonderful conversation, Eusebe discussed what inspires her to help others, the greatest obstacle she had to overcome, and why she considers herself a FireStarter. Read below and be inspired, one inspiring word at a time.
ZT: What was life like growing up in Port-au-Prince, Haiti?
Marie Yolaine Eusebe: Although I was born in Port‐au‐Prince, I did not grow up there. My family left for the US when I was five. I returned a few times during my childhood, but when I returned after the earthquake, I hadn’t been home for 16 years.
ZT: What prompted you to leave your marketing job at American Express to assist in Haiti’s recovery, and how difficult was that decision?
Marie Yolaine Eusebe: Leaving American Express wasn’t difficult. In the first few months after the 2010 Haitian earthquake, I knew I wasn’t qualified or experienced to do recovery or relief work. I was not a first responder, and my skill‐set would only allow me to come alongside the first responders as sort of a second responder. I believed that a response was needed for the mid to long term. Community2Community may have been born out of the earthquake, but it continues to come of age as a service and development agency, focused on supporting the people we serve in our Partner Communities to self‐sufficiency.
ZT: Describe C2C’s Haiti Restoration and Transformation Pilot Project (HRTPP)?
Marie Yolaine Eusebe: The goal of Community2Community’s Haiti Restoration and Transformation Pilot Project is to mobilize intellectual, financial, and material resources toward the purpose of restoring, rebuilding, revitalizing and re‐investing in communities in order to obtain and maintain self-sufficiency. We are currently implementing our HRTPP alongside our partner communities in Petit Goave, Haiti. With very limited resources, we’re already on track with these initiatives, prior to the earthquake. Our goal is to come alongside them and repair the damaged reservoir; create a water distribution system; restore the main road to allow safe travel and restore commerce; rebuild the school; and reforest the mountainside.
ZT: How much progress has C2C made?
Marie Yolaine Eusebe: By working alongside our mountainside Partner Community, C2C has already completed two of the four phases of the Water Initiative, which to date has helped the entire community gain access to water, and we have planted over 14,000 seedlings for our Reforestation Initiative. Our goal is to complete the water distribution system this year, which will prevent future outbreaks of cholera and other airborne water diseases, as well as, provide economic development opportunities through our Water Store. Although we have accomplished much, there is still a wealth of work to be done.
ZT: What’s a C2C Neighbor?
Marie Yolaine Eusebe: The communities that we partner with have leaders with a variety of skills to contribute; they simply require the additional know‐how to turn their passion into a plan of action. This is where the C2C Neighbor initiative comes in. When someone becomes a C2C Neighbor, they move from being a spectator to being a participant, impacting lasting generations. Our goal on May 16th is to raise a community of 100 C2C Neighbors to help complete the project.
ZT: C2C has been on the ground in Haiti for 5 years, what is your most memorable moment?
Marie Yolaine Eusebe: Memorable moments have come out of seeing the vision of creating a self‐sufficient community, via the mission of working with the community, come to life with real tangible results! Being able to work alongside the community in drawing up the plans, budget and providing the labor to construct the captage (catchment structure) to secure and store the water at the spring; completing phase two of the reservoir; gives us the encouragement we need to complete the entire water distribution system this year. Also, our project manager in Haiti will be attending the 5th Annual “Hope and a Future—A Celebration of Haiti” event this year. This will be a very special moment for him to be with us in person.
ZT: What inspires you to help others?
Marie Yolaine Eusebe: I get a great sense of fulfillment in seeing people operate fully in the gifts, talents and abilities that God gave them, and I am fueled by seeing people fully embody their purpose. However, I’m only a FireStarter, but I didn’t start the Fire, God did. It’s my honor and purpose to now start as many fires as I can. It’s why I get up in the morning.
ZT: What’s the greatest obstacle you had to overcome and how did you overcome it?
Marie Yolaine Eusebe: There’s only been one obstacle. Fear! Fear that we will let our Partner Community down. They have put a great deal of faith in C2C. I never want them to lose hope or become discouraged. I feel the same way about our team, our partners and the C2C Neighbors who support us financially. I must daily affirm what I know is true. “Men anpil, chay pa lou,” meaning, “With many hands the load is lighter.” I believe that God is the one who started this journey and He will see it come to completion.
ZT: What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Marie Yolaine Eusebe: My Dad, even though he passed away, told me to always try!
ZT: What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
Marie Yolaine Eusebe: I’m still accomplishing. This is not about a destination for me. It is about the journey into an oftentimes gut-wrenching character‐building exercise that challenges me daily to come up higher. In spite of that, I would not trade in this opportunity for anything. My Dad used to say that God works everything out for good. I have to be honest and say that I could not in 2010 see any good coming out of an earthquake that took the lives of over 316,000 people, and left over 1 million homeless; but I must admit, now five years later, I do see the good that’s been worked out in me, our team and partner community.
ZT: Which celebrity do people say you look like the most?
Marie Yolaine Eusebe: I can’t recall being told that I look like any particular celebrity. However, if I had my choice, the woman that I would like to resemble in spirit and determination is Viola Davis.
ZT: What advice would you give to someone who wants to do humanitarian work, but he or she doesn’t know where to start?
Marie Yolaine Eusebe: I don’t believe there is one cookie cutter way to do humanitarian work. However, I will offer this. Know your true motive! This work cannot be done without love and it cannot be done for self. It can only be done at the sacrifice of self, with the goal of benefiting another, expecting nothing in return. You must be clear that the mission is a two way street, between you and the people you seek to help. Maintaining that perspective will always help one see the people as people, and not as a project. That was a key lesson I learned on our first trip to Petit Goave.
ZT: Decades from now, when people say Marie Yolaine Eusebe—what will they say?
Marie Yolaine Eusebe: I can only hope that they will say, “She tried and did not stop trying until it was finished.”
ZT: What are three things on your bucket list?
Marie Yolaine Eusebe: I don’t have a bucket list. I have plans. Completing the water, the trees, the school and the road are part of my plans. It’s what I think about when my eyes are opened, and dream about when my eyes are closed.
ZT: What’s your favorite word and why?
Marie Yolaine Eusebe: My favorite word is with. This word changed my life and made me to finally understand—how things, not only get done, but last. Working with our community, I’m clear that one day they will not need us, but we will always be with them and they will always be with us.
ZT: For business and personal inquiries, how can people get in contact with you?
Marie Yolaine Eusebe: People can email me at marie‐email@example.com, or they can call me at 347.451.2152.
ZT: Thanks for a great interview, and as an honored guest, is there anything else you would like to say?
Marie Yolaine Eusebe: I would like to encourage zoomdune.com’s audience to join us at BRIC Media Arts House in Brooklyn, on May 16th for our 5th Annual “Hope and a Future—A Celebration of Haiti.” It will be a memorable and hopefully life changing experience, all in support of a great cause. For more information, please visit us online at community2community.info.
ZT: Thank you very much Marie Yolaine Eusebe, for such an extremely inspiring interview. I wish you much success with your humanitarian endeavors, and as an honored guest, I want to end our remarkable conversation with Mel Blanc’s famous catchphrase, “That’s All Folks!” Thanks for being the change that you wish to see in the world, and always remember that (P) Positive, (E) Energy, (A) Always, (C) Creates, (E) Elevation (PEACE).