Fabienne Viltis spent many a school day under her desk, dodging gun battles fought by gangs in Cité Soleil (Sun City), one of Haiti’s poorest, roughest, and most dangerous areas. It is one of the biggest slums in the Northern Hemisphere.
“At times, the gang leaders would tell the students to leave the area but frequently nonstop gunfire would force us to stay in the classrooms for hours,” said Fabienne. “If you had seen the walls of our college… full of bullet holes!”
Despite the obstacles, Fabienne, age 22, was determined to make a success of her studies. This determination caught the attention of a prominent figure in Cité Soleil – Jeneste Jesner, the cultural affairs manager of the most popular community radio station in Cite Soleil, Radio Boukman. He sent Fabienne to a radio production seminar, which was the first of a series of intensive trainings in which Fabienne participated. She participated in a seminar led by Internews on how to conduct debate and talk radio programs.
Today, Fabienne produces her own cultural affairs show called “Morning Sun” on Radio Boukman. The show includes music, weather, movie star gossip, exchange rates and news. But Fabienne does not forget her major objectives – to pursue her studies, obtain diplomas and to be an example for Cité Soleil’s youth. She says, “My life was not normal. But I was determined to leave this black hole. I have been helped. With more studies, I may become an Ambassador – that will give me the opportunity to help others in need.”
In Haiti, Internews manages activities that will increase the relevance, quality, and reach of both community radio stations and regional journalists’ networks. The project is funded by the United States Agency for International Development’s Civil Society Advocacy Program.