Alumna’s Video Brings National Attention to Climate Change

Singing“We’re in danger…now is the time to act,” the music urges as the camera swiftly pans above the russet mountains and dense verdure of the Kenscoff mountains, in a vibrant reminder of all that could be lost.

Led by Daphnée Charles (Agro-Economics 2012), Program Officer with Panos Caribbean, the “Nou An Danje” (We are in Danger) video launched in November as a public service announcement meant to inspire citizens and political leaders to take urgent measures to adapt to climate change, slow environmental degradation, and preserve the country’s biodiversity.

The project began with the recruiting and training of 10 “Atis pou Anviwònman” or Artists for the Environment, including such popular Haitian singers as Bélo, Jean Jean Roosevelt, BIC, Princess Eud, and Nathalie Jean. In July, after a workshop on climate change and biodiversity in Haiti, they worked on the draft lyrics proposed by Panos and created the melody and chorus. Daphnée and the artists then had two recording sessions and after a 13-hour day filming in the mountains of Kenscoff, the first phase of the project was complete.

At the official launch of the video, Daphnée and the participating artists received word of widespread flooding in the North of Haiti. When a Facebook follower sent shocking pictures of an inundated Cap Haitian with a brief note “Men Bagay la” (There it is), the truth of We are in Danger and the necessity of their initiative was clear. The flooding in the north served as an unfortunately compelling introduction of the Artists for the Environment project to the public. In less than 12 hours, the video had an unprecedented impact on the social networks as more than a hundred shares, Tweets, and words of encouragement and congratulation echoed across the country.

As HELP Country Director Garry Delice watched the video for the first time, he felt a deep sense of pride. He remembered the young Daphnée who almost wasn’t offered a HELP scholarship because she did not have a phone to receive the call inviting her for an interview. “Since then,” he notes proudly, “Daphnée has demonstrated a strong commitment to her community and to sharing her talents.” As Garry points out, Haiti is ranked first among the most endangered on the ‘Climate Change and Environmental Risk Atlas’ and approximately 50% of the population is illiterate; the Panos Caribbean initiative is remarkable for using accessible language and culturally relevant material to disseminate a critical message.

American actress Connie Britton, UNDP goodwill ambassador, was so impressed by “Atis Pou Anviwonman” that she invited the artists to perform the song during her visit to Port-Au-Prince in December.

As a young environmental advocate, Daphnée believes firmly that “we need to protect what we have. Haiti is facing some difficult challenges but we still have richness and biodiversity that we need to preserve for ourselves and future generations.” As a HELP student, Daphnée interned with the Seguin Foundation where she worked with rural populations to slow the cutting of trees for charcoal, advising community members on cost efficient alternative fuels and educating them on the negative impacts of charcoal. She continued this work through her undergraduate thesis, which explored the use of sweet sorghum as a source of alternative energy.

Now, with Panos Caribbean and their partners, (the United Nations Programme for Development, the Marc Arthur Foundation, the Audubon Society Haiti, the Civil Society Platform on Climate Change and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, under the direction of the Ministry of the Environment) Daphnée hopes to continue educating Haitians on the importance of preserving biodiversity and encouraging behavior change. Panos Caribbean plans to organize environmental education programs and public concerts in all 10 of Haiti’s departments, ending with a closing ceremony in Port-au-Prince.