No Escaping Destiny: Painting the Future of Les Cayes, Haiti

As a young painter in Les Cayes, Haiti, Joubert Alerte would have given up everything to pursue his passion - painting - had he known what he knows today, that his talent has made him one of the most famous painters of Les Cayes.

Ever since Joubert's paintings were featured in the Avenir Community Center, refurbished as part of IOM's PREPEP program, which focuses on community stabilization in Haiti, he has been in high demand by the business and entertainment community of Les Cayes.

Joubert began to learn painting at a community school near his hometown of Jeremie in southwest Haiti.  But due to his family's precarious economic situation, he had to abandon art school and moved to Les Cayes where he started working as a professional painter and making jewelry.  He also set up the "JPC Art Gallery and School", where he teaches art to the youth of Les Cayes.

Concentrating on his work and trying to make a living did not leave Joubert much time to participate in community activities.

When he was approached by IOM staff to provide his services as a volunteer to paint the wall of the Avenir Community Center, he immediately rejected the idea.  IOM then turned to two of his art students, who accepted but said that they needed Joubert, their teacher, to work with them.  They said that the complexity of such a project required a higher technical capacity that they did not possess.  Joubert finally agreed to join them and together they painted a scene of women dancing on the street.

Working on the project as a volunteer meant that he was only provided with supplies and some food while he painted.  As the painting progressed, many people in the community and those passing through started to express great appreciation for his work. Several people who just happened to be walking by gave him money to express their thanks.

Joubert has received two awards for his painting, from IOM and from the Haitian Ministry of Youth and Sports.

Following the accolades he received for the mural, Joubert has received many requests for paintings from businessmen.  He is doing his best to keep up with all the new demands.

More students have approached him to take classes, but he says he can't take them all because he does not have enough materials.

And when other artists ask to meet with him, Joubert says, "I never thought that other artists would want to meet me."

One of the expressions Joubert has been using lately is: "kote m pran tan, pou map pedi tan."  By saying I have no time to lose, he means that he is so busy with his newfound notoriety that he has no time to waste on other activities. And he adds, "This is all thanks to my participation in the IOM project."

Though at first he did not want to participate, Joubert now thanks IOM for giving him a chance to make his talents and skills known to the community.  His achievements have inspired greater self-confidence, courage, and determination to continue using his talents to improve his life and his community.  This experience has also taught him the importance of seizing any and all opportunities to transform his community.

His painting at the Avenir Community Center will be a lasting legacy for him and a constant reminder to everyone of the importance of community involvement.

IOM's PREPEP program (Programme de Revitalisation et de Promotion de l'Entente et de la Paix) is a continuation of IOM's Haiti Transition Initiative, which began in 2004.

Implemented by IOM, PREPEP works closely with the Government of Haiti in the pursuit of its four objectives: to enhance citizen confidence and participation in a peaceful political transition; to empower citizens and the Haitian government to address priority community needs; to build cooperative frameworks between citizens and government entities at all levels, and to promote peaceful interaction among conflicted populations.

IOM staff work with vulnerable communities and the Haitian national and municipal government bodies in an effort to assist with the stabilization of volatile neighborhoods through the rehabilitation of key infrastructure, such as roads, markets and schools, and social/cultural activities.

To date, the program, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has approved more than 1,400 grants with a total value of US$ 30 million.

For more information on IOM's work in Haiti, please visit: http://www.iomhaiti.org/

For more information, please contact:

Matthew Van Geest
Program Support Officer
IOM Haiti
Tel: +1.509.244.1218
E-mail: mvangeest@iom.int