Neighborhood Opportunity Network

Supporting one another in a time of crisis

Evans, Olga and Sam – Effective Human Bridges

Posted by frankieblackburn on June 21, 2009

About a month ago, Jayne Park (with the Nonprofit Advancement Fund of the Montgomery County Community Foundation) and I sat in the office of Evans Faustin, the Executive Director of the Caribbean Help Center, Inc. Evans and I have been building a relationship for about five years. He participated in IMPACT’s Community Empowerment program and we have stayed in regular communication. Jayne has been cultivating a relationship with him over the last six months in her new role at the Foundation. Jayne and I were trying to convince Evans and his younger colleague Sam Tremont that the government is serious this time in its attempts to listen and work with people like he and his wife, Olga, who have been tirelessly working for nearly 8 years to help low income Haitians and other French speaking immigrants of African descent secure jobs and health care and other vital services. He was initially wary of the Neighborhood Service Centers and not sure how they provided him and his people anything new or different. As we talked back and forth, Evans and Sam started describing story after story of real people who do not feel comfortable seeking government services. Jayne and I have both heard many stories through the years, but we found the accounts described by Evans and Sam particularly compelling. We asked him to consider partnering with us to collect these stories in a more organized fashion.

Evans had an immediate idea – he proposed holding an open house/party with food, music and videos on a Saturday night, as a way of attracting people to the Caribbean Help Center and then asking them to talk one on one about their stories. Olga, standing nearby, volunteered to organize the food. When I mentioned the possibility of video taping some of the participants (using a non-imposing Flip Camera), Sam loved the idea and knew how to secure use of a camera. We all agreed to co-sponsor the event on June 20.

As time passed and the date drew closer, Jayne and I tried to help out – but Evans insisted that we just show up. (Thanks to IMPACT Intern Samantha Frank for reaching out and securing their permission to bring a bunch of balloons). As you can see from the pictures and the video clips below, the event was very successful. Sam and Evans are working on a written report and a short compilation of the video stories collected. We look forward to showing these stories in the very near future.

At this point in the process, Jayne and I want the readers to know of and appreciate the work of Evans, Olga, Sam and many others involved in their effort. The Neighbors Campaign will not succeed without forging a careful, on-going alliance with these and other similar and amazing unsung heroes – even if their approach is different or does not always conform to that of established service providers.

Caribbean Help Center - Four Corners, Silver Spring

Olga (on right) and friends preparing fried plantains!

Olga (on right) and friends preparing fried plantains!

Members of Haitian Community - listening to Rev Evans Faustin

Members of Haitian Community - listening to Rev Evans Faustin

Enjoying a moment of good food and connection.

Enjoying a moment of good food and connection.

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