When Dayanne Danier focuses on her designs, her goal is to create something that allows women to look effortlessly beautiful. Her contemporary women’s brand, Bien Abyé (well-dressed), has been featured in New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Miami and Haiti.
Outside of creating clothes, Danier is the founder of New York City-based nonprofit organization, Fleur de Vie (Flower of Life) dedicated to improving the quality of education for children in Haiti. Danier speaks to The Haitian Times on Fleur de Vie’s upcoming trip to Haiti later this month promoting the “Reading is Fundamental” initiative.
What inspired you to create Fleur de Vie?
A number of things inspired me to create Fleur De Vie. The first catalyst was watching Oprah’s Christmas special for kids in Africa. I remember at the end of the show thinking: “I want to do that for kids in Haiti.” But I didn’t have Oprah money so the concept was shelved. Then the earthquake happened and I traveled to Haiti with two friends, one of which was Jenny Batista, the co-founder. We spent our time with our first partnering school doing activities that would help the students cope with the tragedy. On the last day, I asked a simple question of: “What do you want to be when you grow up.” The blank stare from the students made us realize we couldn’t just leave these kids. We had to do more and make a commitment to the lives of these kids. That night at my uncle’s house recapping our time in Haiti, I remember looking at him and saying: “I am starting an organization called Fleur De Vie because children are the flowers of life in Haiti.”
Your upcoming trip to Haiti later this month, “Reading is Fundamental,” is meant to inspire Haitian Americans to travel to Haiti and promote education in the country. Why do you think it’s very important to get people in the diaspora to come together for education?
Education is the core changing agent for the future of any country. It is the most important factor for growth, more so than any sector. Without education reform, we will never see a better Haiti. In dealing with individuals in every sector, there is never a time that a level of education is not needed. [For example] Health care: try to tell an uneducated person why they need to take better care of their health. Tourism: it doesn’t just happen, that too needs a level of knowledge in hospitality. Infrastructure: who is going to build that infrastructure, an uneducated person?
The constant need for a better Haiti, coupled with a poor strategic education plan makes absolutely no sense. Again, it shows the lack of education and commitment to its own future. And if the brain drain that everyone talks about is in the Diaspora, then the Diaspora has a civic/generational duty to support the education sector. Either do something or don’t have an opinion, and the Diaspora is full of opinions. Well, those opinions need to support education. Otherwise, Haiti will continue on the downward spiral to nowhere.
What have been some of the challenges in operating Fleur de Vie?
Some of the major challenges we have is finding funding support amongst the diaspora. It always seems to amaze me how there is [a] big desire to support positive things happening in Haiti, yet so many organizations have to seek out grants or other communities for funding because of the lack of support in the diaspora.
The level of commitment is not strong, and that is not just a Fleur De Vie challenge. That is a Haiti challenge.
Finding genuine long-term commitments to projects that make an impact is almost impossible. We are currently working on building back the school for our partners in Anse A Veau. Although, one might think: “oh another school,” as a community we don’t realize the population growth Haiti has had since the earthquake and the lack of infrastructure to support this growth. So yes, there is a need for more schools in Haiti.
What advice do you have for those who want to be a part of the “Reading is Fundamental” program or want to find a help to help improve education in Haiti?
For those who want to be a part of our “Reading Is Fundamental” program they can do one of three things or all of the following:
1. Join us for the trip! One of the best ways Fleur De Vie promotes transparency is for people to join us in Haiti when we conduct our programs. Participating in the programs being conducted first hand allows supporters to see the needs and engage with the students, all which is needed.
2. Donate to the program at http://tinyurl.com/yx9ne5vv. Funds are used to purchase Haitian Creole and French books for our four partnering schools. Five years ago, we established libraries in each school and each year we build on these libraries by donating more books. Having in-school libraries is very important for schools to promote literacy. The challenges of literacy can only truly be addressed once the first step of making the tools (books) available to students is established.
3. Host a small fundraiser whether at home with close friends or online via social media. Those open to this can email us at [email protected].