On January 12th, 2010 an earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti, causing immeasurable damage and inconceivable loss of life. Carrefour-Feuilles, disadvantaged suburb in Port-au-Prince with a population of about 200,000, was greatly damaged by the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, the worst in 200 years. Unfortunately, Bibliothèque du Soleil was destroyed. The people who once used the library as a place of leisure and education needed more immediate needs met: child care, medical assistance, job training, safe spaces to congregate and other services that libraries can provide in times of disaster. Consequently, the staff of Bibliothèque du Soleil collaborated with a group of young leaders in the community and created an emergency group called Biwo Doleans Sosyal (BDS) to address these immediate needs. With the support of Haiti Soleil, BDS provided assistance to the community, conducted needs assessments, offered condolences to the families who lost loved ones, and documented stories and grievances from residents. Between 2010 and 2012, thanks to a grant from Direct Relief International, the group organized a successful psychosocial program that supported about 300 kids between the ages of 5-15 and their families.
During this period, Haiti Soleil received unprecedented support from other organizations and individuals in the United States who coordinated fundraisers and raised awareness about the library’s relief efforts. Teachers and professors in Indiana and various parts of California held fundraisers in their homes and high schools. Poets and artists from Chicago and New York City used their talents to generate funds for the library. For example, Poets for Haiti, a collaborative of poets and partner of Haiti Soleil, sold limited editions of their chapbook “For the Crowns of your Heads” to benefit Haiti Soleil. The Just-for-Girls afterschool program, supported by the San Francisco Lynks chapter, decorated shoe boxes filled with school supplies for the library’s summer camp program. In Santa Barbara, California a high-school kid held a “Kids Helping Kids” fundraiser at a church, and David Starkey, the 2009-2010 poet-laureate of the city organized a poetry reading to benefit Haiti Soleil. With the help of a donor, Haiti Soleil received a visit from American novelist, poet and activist Alice Walker. These events generated more donor support for the library’s relief efforts.
Although the earthquake destroyed the physical structure of the library, it did not destroy the spirit of the library. With renewed resolve, Dr. Clitandre met with Seth Wachtel, Director of the Architecture and Community Design Program in the Department of Art and Architecture from the University of San Francisco (USF) to envision a new building and community center. Professor Wachtel and a group of student architects drew plans for a library that could withstand a strong earthquake after receiving feedback from the community and the board of Haiti Soleil.
In 2011, Haiti Soleil received a final blueprint from USF for the library that was approved by the board. Haiti Soleil was able to secure a professional Haitian engineering firm, PETRAC, to do the work. By May 2012, the debris at the site of the library was cleared and the first phase of the reconstruction began. The process of rebuilding has been challenging. But Haiti Soleil is determined to complete the library in Carrefour-feuilles.