Meet VANOHRA GASPARD, FOUNDER at ALL AGAINST HUNGER FOUNDATION
How do you integrate Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity into your every day?
I used to go to my grandmother's house every Sunday when I was a kid, calling it "the sacred day", probably because of the many religious paintings in her living room. We would sit at the round table with her friends and get candy and treats but one instruction was very clear: "don't talk, sit, and listen." Not the easiest task for a child. But I did what she said, not expecting that this advice would stick with me well beyond the walls of her home and for much longer than a Sunday. I continued to listen, and with it, understanding the way that grannie had bestowed upon me one of the most valuable qualities to which I now owe my life. It enabled me to be more open to my environment, to hear the most silent ideas, and to understand the most (the least?) expressed viewpoints. It allowed me to learn from others and experience the world with a fresh perspective. To me, authentic Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity rely on this ability to listen. Whether it's a school assignment, a pitch competition, organizing a fundraiser, or during the most heated debates in my psychology class, I have learned that greatness emerges when you are open to other people's opinions and ideas because you believe that we learn from others every day.
What do you do at your organization in terms of Social Impact/Sustainability, what are the goals? What’s the purpose of your organization and how do you bring it to life?
The truth is that the All Against Hunger Foundation has existed for a long time even if it has not reached its final stages yet; it has taken numerous shapes and forms, but its essence remains the same. Its objective is to contribute to the collective purpose of reducing hunger in Haiti, my home country, and eventually the world. My organization, like any other, did not require a name to get started. It required a compelling cause. I hope it will in the future be of assistance to other Haitians and organizations that have the goal, the cause, and the initiative, but lack the resources.
The idea for my future foundation is best described as a silent process of continuous commitment and adaptation.
Before I had even given it a name, the All Against Hunger Foundation began on the day I offered a portion of my lunch to a child through my car window. It evolved further when I donated food in church with my mother. It expanded a few years later, and its major aim was to organize fundraisers at school to gather money to send food to shelters, or at my mother's workplace to collect money to give and buy provisions for the underprivileged, such as rice, pasta, and canned food.
When I attended the Ella, Inc. camp pitch competition, my idea and commitment transformed into the idea of building a larger enterprise that would help farmers promote Haiti’s agriculture and make a better profit. Later this year, when I had to leave Haiti for safety reasons and was unable to continue the fundraisers, The All Against Hunger Foundation’s blueprint became a safe online platform that would allow children to play, communicate, and learn while also engaging in interactive activities. The funds earned would be utilized to improve Haiti's agriculture and collect funds for food donations. So, this is the last stage of this still evolving charity idea that has accompanied me for so long. It is my goal to turn it into a reality while studying computer science in college here in Atlanta where I am now.
Why do you do what you do?
My answer is simple: I adore Haiti, its culture, and its people, and I sincerely want to make everyone’s life there a little bit better. I grew up in Haiti witnessing the struggles most of us face every day to meet the basic needs such as getting food on the table. The All Against Hunger Foundation will be built to help the elderly smile again when they see the united community that they once knew come to life again. It is here to assist parents in providing for their children as well as children in enjoying their youth with more opportunities to study and more energy to play. All I can think about now is the violence. This country has left its imprint on me, and in a time where hunger and lack of hope generate more and more violence, I wish to step in with the All against Hunger Foundation to work with and for the community.
“The funds earned would be utilized to improve Haiti's agriculture and collect funds for food donations. So, this is the last stage of this still evolving charity idea that has accompanied me for so long. It is my goal to turn it into a reality while studying computer science in college here in Atlanta where I am now.”
Who inspires you most?
We were eating, and I was fiddling with my meal, refusing to eat the rest. My mother got annoyed, and I wondered what all the fuss was about. In that instant, she retrieved her phone from her pocket and showed me images from the previous trip to Cap-Haitian for food donations. I saw images that remain engraved in my mind to this day, images that I continued to see every time I stepped outside the house: famished kids, with bright eyes and a smile on their faces. My mother has always been my role model. Through her actions and commitment, she gave me values that I carry with me daily. Growing up, she always encouraged me to be the change I wanted to see in the world. If I learned the importance of listening from my grandmother, my mum showed me what inclusion truly means through her lifestyle. She always took the time to understand others and is still the most thoughtful, honest, and open person I know. She was the first to teach me to give back to my community, whether through toy drives during Christmas or by encouraging me to be aware of others who do not have much. My mother always sees everyone first and foremost as people, ignoring the social and racial divisions that are so prevalent in Haiti. Despite all her sacrifices and immense contributions to her community, she remains humble. If the All Against Hunger Foundation exists today, I owe it to how she raised me and the values she ingrained in me.
What are you most grateful for?
My flag is made up of two layers. One red layer for the beauty of its country and culture, for its carnivals, vibrant clothes, meals, and its rhythmic tunes. The blue layers represent the depth of our values, our kinship, our resilience, our courage, and our firm belief that whatever occurs, we will be able to face it. What I am most grateful for is Haiti and its people. The help and support we provide to each other, and the values we live by - proudly. I am grateful to be a part of such a community.