Greg Cronin – Director, Founder, President
You can see many of the goals of Yon Sel Lanmou in the personal journey that brought me to create Yon Sel Lanmou. I am very fortunate to have been born into a loving family. I have been surrounded by loving people since the day I was born, so of course it is easy for me to return love to others. The circle of people that I love continues to grow, and now encompasses very good friends in Haiti. I also loved the environment from a young age, and constantly sought knowledge about animals, streams, forests, plants, and the oceans. This knowledge led me to become a professor of biology and sustainability at the University of Colorado Denver.
Though my path has always been influenced by the arts, it was a documentary film by Spike Lee that motivated me to travel to Haiti and assist in the earthquake recovery. Mr. Lee’s movie “When the Levees Broke” was about the death and destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. I felt the winds of Katrina as I played guitar on the deck of the sailboat I was living on. Because of that memorable experience, I named my guitar Katrina 2 days before the storm gained strength and devastated New Orleans and gulf coast. Though I heard about the devastation done to New Orleans and lived just 6 hours away, I went about my work conducting research on seaweeds, and did nothing to help the victims of the hurricane. “When the Levees Broke” had a scene that showed Sean Penn, not as an actor but as a regular guy, rescuing people from roofs in a small boat. That scene made me realize that my inaction cost people their lives. I made a vow to myself to help victims of natural disasters whenever I had the opportunity. The first opportunity came when the earthquake shook Port au Prince on Jan. 12, 2010. I had the honor of working with the NGO founded by Sean Penn during summer break 2010. I made many friends during that and subsequent trips to Haiti, and founded Yon Sel Lanmou to use the most abundant resource in Haiti, Love.
Dimitri Napoleon – Director, Vice-President, Haitian Artistic and Educational Programs
My name is Dimitri Frank Napoleon, born in a small town in Cap-‐Haitian, Haiti. As some may know Cap‐Haitian is known for a lot historical events, the capital of Haiti was once there, and as for Tourism, we have Vertières, where the last and defining battle of the Haitian Revolution on November 1803 took place. Then we have the Citadelle, a large mountaintop fortress, but my favorite Labadie. It is a beach resort, but now has become a private resort leased by Royal Caribbean International. Small town but I love it, and very proud to have been born Haitian, especially there.
My mom and dad never use to get along much, always arguing and fighting as far as I could remember. Then one day my aunt and uncle came to visit, and heard of the things that were going on, and decided that was not a place for a kid to grow up. So I was too moved back with them to Port‐au‐Prince where things were promised to be better, at least I would have been raised in a house in a familial environment. Not sure of their agreements, but I ended up in Port‐au‐Prince. It was nice there, other kids to play with, and a great school but it was way different then growing up with my actual mom and dad, and the family I was already used to. I was around 10 years old then more or less, but 7 years later, when I was 17 I graduated from High School, fresh and ready for University.
Unfortunately I couldn’t afford to study in the United States at the time, due to financial reason, so I moved to Santo Domingo, our neighbors. I started taking Spanish courses, and eventually started my studies there in Computer Science, then went back to Haiti late 2009, spent Christmas there, and was caught by the earthquake on January 12, 2010. I always make sure I thank the Lord for that day, the house did not fall to the ground but it’s as it did. The stairs were gone, blocks missing from the wall, and the front door was literally hanging, like if you were to touch it the whole house would crumble down. It was us 9 kids that day, they just came from school and woke me up, because I was sick that day I did not go anywhere. We found refuge at New American School, which is the school I went to, we lived there for a day or two trying to figure out what was going on. I thought life was over as I knew it, but the worst part was when we found out that, thieves pass by the house and stole majority of our personal belongings, clothes, sneakers, even my personal documents was stolen as well, school papers, as well as my passport was taken.
A few weeks later, even when we had help coming in from foreign sources things still seemed to be getting worst. I was told a friend who is like a sister to me almost lost her legs, so I had to go and see how she was doing, and on the way to her house, there live a friend of mine who we use to do music together. That when my friend told of Petion‐Ville Camp, used to be a golf course and now the homes of thousands. He told me there were army medics looking for people to translate to help provide medical care to those in need, I felt there isn’t much I have been doing or I could have been doing to help, but if it’s just translator they need I can do. So we headed there right way, and I was told to come back early in the morning. I did as I was instructed and here I was everyday helping translating for US Army 82nd Airborne. Then came in J/P HRO, which brought the greatest change in my life, and for that I thank God, not only I have made it through the earthquake, but for meeting a bunch of wonderful people, with good hearts, that wanted to help my country Haiti, in many ways I have always dreamed, but couldn’t seem to become real. And now we started to create another huge bridge to help those truly in need, Yon Sel Lanmou.
And I feel kid on the streets should be our main concern for they are future. Taking the kids of the streets, yes, but then what? So you need more than just a place for them, somewhere in the years to come they will learn something that will be both useful to their lives, and those of everyone living in Haiti. Create an environment where they can learn trades, like cultivating the land, raising animals, learning how to create things out of scraps, recycling items, or just anything that is polluting or destroying our environment as it is. There are many nonprofit organizations out there that are currently creating, and inventing things out of basically anything they find. We can use these organizations to teach the kids, and their work in return can be sold to make profits to take care of them, or even be useful to the society, like waste baskets made out of plastic bottles which are one of the major waste sources in Haiti.
Faine Lartigue – Director, Haitian-American Liaison
Alexandra Pierre – Director of Environmental Programs
Alexandra conducting her thesis research in marine conservation.
Najee – Director of Arts
Najee in the studio. In addition to being a guitarist, bassist, singer/songwriter, and percussionist, Najee also sculpts, paints, and make original metal art.
Kalyn Heffernan – Director, Audio Production
While attending school at University of Colorado Denver, I became a close friend with Greg Cronin through our musical ventures. When Greg returned home from Haiti his first time, I was eager to watch all the footage he took while he was there and even more thrilled to hear that there were so many rappers around the camp. These were people who had every possible reason to give up hope and creativity, but instead found strength through the hip-hop culture to continue the struggle and reconstruction. This is the most exciting project I’ve been able to be a part of. I am able to take my knowledge about hip-hop and share my aspiration for the culture with such an incredible group of Haitian individuals. The level of skill I’ve witnessed is above par and it’s so inspiring to connect the two places with hip-hop which has historically been brought up from the shadows of destruction and corruption that Haiti is so very familiar with. I’m an emcee/producer for the band Wheelchair Sports Camp and graduated CU Denver with a degree in audio engineering. It is my goal collaborate on as many levels as possible with the hip-hoppers and musicians across Haiti to promote creative expression that can triumph tragedy into strategies.
In all of my travels, some of the friendliest people I have ever met are from Haiti. In some ways, part of my heart lives in Haiti and it is the reason why I keep going back. While on my first mission trip to Haiti in October of 2009, I discovered my passion for working with orphanages. The hugs, smiles, and kisses received from these children are priceless. When the earthquake hit Port-au-Prince, my heart sunk and my mind and prayers were with the Haitian people. In January 2012, I returned to Haiti as an independent. I didn’t have an organization to host my stay as previous times and I was a bit reluctant of being on my own, but Greg Cronin had invited me to stay at the Petionville IDP camp with the locals. I stayed at the camp and It turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. The people at the camp live in atrocious unsanitary conditions, yet their kindness, compassion, good spirits, and humor compares to nothing I’ve seen before. One of the guys offered me his “bed” which was a quilt laid on the floor on top of blue plastic. I graciously accepted and thanked him but he said “no, thank you for staying with us and living like us. I am humbled to have you in my home”. I am committed to Yon Sel Lanmou because its mission is to use Love in all of the projects and Love is the number one ingredient needed for working with children. In that camp I learned about my desire to stay involved and continue working with the children of Haiti. I learned what it is to be humble, and I learned to love just for the sake of love. One of the guys at the camp gave me a bracelet and as he tied it against my wrist, asked me to never forget him or his people, but little did he know that they already owned a part of my heart.
Carla Van Dusen Bluntschli was born in Philadelphia in 1953. She studied violin and viola at a music conservatory in Philadelphia from 1971-1975. Married in 1976, to Ron Bluntschli, moved nine years later with 3 young daughters, she and her husband to Haiti, where they served as volunteers with the Mennonite Central Committee, a small development organization, from 1985-1993, Ron working with community facilitators in reforestation and community development and Carla learning the culture and language and also homeschooling the children for part of the time.
From 1992 to 2009 Carla co-founded a not-for-profit organization, that hosted visiting short- term groups and long-term volunteers in cultural and historical experiences based in Port-au-Prince that included learning tours to all corners of Haiti during the 17 years this organization existed. The work was founded on playing the role as a living bridge for visitors to Haiti by providing intense cultural and historical (re)orientations, Creole language instruction and cultural immersion programs for diverse groups such as universities, churches or individuals. Translation and “fixing” for foreign researchers, international media In 2000, she co-founded the not-for-profit N a Sonje (“We Will Remember”) Foundation.
In 2009 when DOA/BN folded for personal reasons, 17 years of experience and expertise working with visiting groups transferred automatically to the work of the foundation where she continues the same work with an expanded staff (4 local young men who are organized under the name MJRAV, translated meaning “Youth Movement for Relationships between Ayiti and Visitors”). N a Sonje Foundation continues with the same mission of participating and contributing to a healing transformation but now expanded to search for transformation in 3 parts.