Albert’s organization P4H Global enacts community-centered approach to redefine aid in her home country
January 12, 2023
This article was originally featured in the Fall 2022 Latinamericanist newsletter.
For Bertrhude Albert (MALAS 2014), education is transformational. Her own experience is a testament to this: it was the pursuit of education that brought her from her native Haiti to the United States, and the pursuit of education that brought her back home to Haiti to share her gifts.
Dr. Albert is the co-founder of the non-profit initiative P4H Global, alongside business partner and fellow UF alumna Priscilla Zelaya. P4H Global seeks to transform what it means to give aid to Haiti, beyond “clothes and food and shoes,” Dr. Albert says. Instead, P4H Global aims to transform Haiti itself, through investment in education. Building a community of educators through teacher training and personal mentorship, P4H Global prioritizes the empowerment of local leaders.
This mentality, Dr. Albert says, traces directly back to her education in Latin American Studies at UF. “Getting my master’s in Latin American Studies was the best decision I’ve made,” she says. “It ensured that the passion I had for Haiti wasn’t some fleeting emotion. It encouraged me to dig deeper and understand not only the historical context for Haiti, but also the power of community development. I realized that Haiti can rise as a nation, but it’s not going to be with clothes and food and shoes. It’s got to be an investment in the capacity of the Haitian people.”
Listening to Haitian community members also affirmed this approach – the result of an initial attempt to provide aid the traditional way. “Priscilla and I handed out over 400 pounds of clothes and food and shoes, and then we sat down with leaders of the community to ask for feedback,” Dr. Albert shares. “And they told us that while they were thankful for what we did, it actually hurt them more than helped them. Merchants who sell those items can’t conduct their business because their customers are getting them for free.” The biggest takeaway? Material charity aid is an outsiders’ strategy. It doesn’t center the Haitian people, which isn’t empowering – a key to meaningful change.
Because of these learning experiences, P4H Global operates on the cornerstone belief that the Haitian people must lead their own transformation. The investment in education goes hand-in-hand with this mission: teachers become students become teachers, and change spreads exponentially, in the people themselves. “Priscilla and I started out training teachers in Haiti, but then we had to take it to the next level,” Dr. Albert explains. “We needed Haitians training Haitians. So our teachers went out into their communities and started training their brothers and sisters.”
The result? A sprawling network of trained educators in each of Haiti’s 10 departments. An operation that began with only two staff members has expanded to over forty. P4H Global has earned attention on an international stage, too: this year, they were awarded the prestigious UNESCO-Hamdan Prize for Excellence in Teacher Development, which comes with a $100,000 investment to continue their work. It is the first time in the prize’s history that the award has been bestowed on a Haitian institution. Not only that, but Dr. Albert has been appointed as a member of Haiti’s National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation, putting her in a position to serve Haiti’s educational system through national policy.
Education’s capacity to transform is multi-faceted. In conjunction with her training initiatives within Haiti, Dr. Albert uses social media to transform public perception of Haiti. On TikTok and Instagram, she posts videos telling stories about Haiti’s history, culture, and language to change the narrative about her home. “It’s been so easy for the world to just write Haiti off as a lawless land, as a nation filled with Black people who don’t know how to run the country,” she says. “But that is not our story. We are rewriting our narrative, because the perception of Haiti impacts the way that Haitians view ourselves. Haiti is much more than economic poverty, and much more than the struggles that she faces. One thing that we always say at P4H is that circumstances don’t determine potential. We believe that Haiti is rising.”
Dr. Albert’s conviction for the future stems not only from the love for her people, but her understanding of the past. “Haiti is the first free Black republic in the world. That was the first revolution, the first time we rose above our circumstances. This time it’s going to be education. We are engaged in an intellectual revolution, using our minds, our creativity, and our innovation to transform our land.”
You can read more from the Fall 2022 Latinamericanist below.