From Haiti: AYV Scholar, Mendy Calixte, on the Power of Creativity

“For me creativity means the action of using whatever you have available to do remarkable work. It’s the ability to succeed from nothing.” 

During each day of his childhood in Petite Riviere de Nippes, Haiti, AYV Scholar Mendy Calixte watched his community fish, and fish, and fish.  It occurred to him that there could come a time when there wouldn’t be any fish left. One day, Mendy decided to produce a documentary called, Morning of Fish. Interestingly, he did not use it to suggest that his community change how they earned their meager livelihood; rather he leveraged it to show them how creativity itself offers options for sustaining themselves, and their native marine life.

Q: What problem are you trying to solve?

A: Raised in a coastal village, I am trying to solve the problem that occurs in my community where the people do not understand how important the ocean is along side of their yards. The ocean does not get any value or any caring. Basically for them it is just a place to fish.  I would like to change my community’s perspective because most people think that if they are somehow challenged they cannot prosper. That is a handicap that leads them to poverty.

Q:  Tell us about your journey. How did you get to where you are today?

A: While in high school, I started having workshops at my house with students in my community to teach them how to use media to reach others. I also have been sharing my approach with supporting details such as examples of other villages around the world that have developed by getting involved in other marine conservation activities to prove to them that there is a good chance for their community to progress. And then I received the best email that began with “Congratulations, you are one of the Adobe Youth Voices scholarship winners.” It empowered me to do better and to pursue my current studies in engineering.

Q:  What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?

A:  My biggest challenge was to find a way to reach the community, so by getting some students to understand the issue and teaching them how to use media tools, our workshop was successful and productive. Their media pieces (photos, videos) are very alarmist, creative and point out the issues that ruin the ocean.

“For me, the power of a media work is immortal as long as it is about humanity and other major issues on earth. It’s one of the best ways to change somebody’s life or a community.”

Q:  Who has helped you on your journey?

A: The Haiti Ocean Project provided me equipment to use with the students for their media productions and with the help of Adobe Youth Voices providing software and tools. Since 2007, I have been supporting the Haiti Ocean Project Mendy_studentsin its activities to establish the first whale and dolphin watching business in Haiti. I also met Haiti’s Minister of Environment to ask for support for building a marine sanctuary. More recently, I was the videographer involved in producing Octopus Hunting. I shot this 4-minute video in front of my house to show to the community the intense killing of baby octopus on the shore. I made it as a call for awareness to stop those who kill these baby octopuses.

Q:  What are your future goals?

A: My goal is to build a marine sanctuary there to provide training to the fisherman, to educate kids, and allow researchers or college students worldwide to research and at the same time, share the value of the ocean with society. Then, my community could be aware of the importance of the ocean life so they could develop their village by cleaning the shore, increasing the beauty of the beaches and the health of the coral reefs. By doing so, they could make the village become a tourist destination.

Q:  What help do you need to achieve them?

A: To achieve these goals it requires me financial resources to build infrastructures to accommodate researchers, to host training, and workshop for kids. I am also open to collaborate with whoever is willing to help to achieve these goals.  For example, Haiti Ocean Project educates local young people and fishermen about marine mammals, conservation, research and ecotourism.  If they could have funds to further their goals, it is the same as achieving mine. If you would like to help us, you can do so on their website.

Q:  How will the world be different because of what you’re doing?

A: The benefit of what I am trying to do will not be only for my community because as we all know, there is only one ocean, a bad treatment from one end can affect another. We are all concerned. A turtle can travel from a country to another, so does a piece of plastic. By convincing the littoral community of Haiti to take care of the ocean and prosper from doing so, it will represent an example for other poor islands that are facing the same problem.

“I think the major problem of a community or a nation is their mindset, not the poverty.  If you are creative, there is no way you will be poor or unsuccessful.”