In 2005, Dr. Nadège T Clitandre, at the time a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Berkeley, had a conversation with her father, Haitian novelist and Journalist Pierre A. Clitandre, at his home in Carrefour-Feuilles, Port-au-Prince. Mr. Clitandre, who had been exiled in 1980 to the United States and returned to Haiti in the mid-1990s, wanted to contribute to the country’s development, especially in regards to its youth (a sizeable demographic in Haiti- 40% of the population is under 15). As they talked, Mr. Clitandre pointed out that the community did not have a library. In fact, public libraries as we know them in the United States are rare in Haiti. Sadly, the literacy rate is 60 percent, much lower than the average literacy rate for Latin America and Caribbean nations. Less than thirty-five percent of children finish primary school, and less than two percent finish secondary school. Libraries are vital to a child’s educational and social development. The two came up with an idea to start a community library, Bibliothèque du Soleil, where children, teens and adults could all come to share their ideas, interests and concerns; to have a safe, comforting place to go to read and engage with others; and to check out books and bring them home to share with their families.
The mission of Haiti Soleil is to build and develop community-centered public libraries, museums, and other institutions of educational and cultural exchange focused on advancing the intellectual growth of young Haitian citizens. Haiti Soleil spearheads projects on behalf of, and in partnership with, individuals and organizations in Haiti that share similar principles and dedication to the dissemination of knowledge.