By Emily Sauchelli

NEW YORK— On a recent sunny Sunday afternoon, about 20 women gathered at Rebel Restaurant and Bar on the Lower East Side to celebrate SHE_BUILDS’ newest New York City chapter ambassadors — Sabine Blazin, Porshia Derival and Sofia Rinvil. The Oct. 9 event served as a relaunch of the 4-year-old New York City chapter, whose growth went on pause during the pandemic. 

“The purpose of organizing them by chapters and having ambassadors is for the local community to get to know each other,” founder Shaïna Silva said. “Many of the people that came here today didn’t even know each other existed in the city and all live here.”

Silva, 36, started SHE_BUILDS in 2018 to provide a network for Haitian women after former President Donald Trump shared his thoughts about Haiti as a country. The group has since expanded to 32 cities across four continents, and hosts events organized by chapters with ambassadors. 

“I put out a call to action for Haitians to present projects that they were doing that would contribute to the future of Haiti,”  said Silva, a tech worker based in Washington, D.C. “I built a website to feature their presentations, and most of the people that responded were women from all over the world.” 

“So, I started to organize and network to connect people in cities at a greater level,” she said. “Networking is the first step to open doors for you as an entrepreneur.”

Now, the platform mainly supports women entrepreneurs and creatives, she said.  

Derival, 35, one of the NYC ambassadors, has roots in Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago. The native Long Islander is executive director of The Hip Hop Dance Conservatory. “My involvement with SHE_BUILDS is to understand my cultural roots more deeply and really connect with other Haitian and other Caribbean women all over New York City and all over the globe,” Derival said.

Event attendee Naomy Grand’Pierre, 25, Haiti’s first female Olympic swimmer, is an ambassador for SHE_BUILDS’ Atlanta chapter. She came to the October event to support the New York City ambassadors. 

For her, SHE_BUILDS offers encouragement about Haiti despite the country’s numerous crises.

“It can at times be discouraging, but I think organizations like SHE_BUILDS help us do something about it and try to bring that positive energy to counteract all the negative stuff that is going on,” she said. “Although we can’t change the political landscape of the country [Haiti] or the socio-economic situation, we can create products or create movements where we can continue to celebrate the culture and keep those aspects alive while we get through this rough time.”

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