Background

In February 2004, as Haiti teetered on the brink of violent anarchy, the Open Society foundation in Haiti—Fondation Connaissance et Liberté (FOKAL)—set out to do something counterintuitive: build a park.

The idea was not just to secure green space with benches and lawns and gurgling springs under a canopy of green. FOKAL initiated a building process that would, if the idea worked, bring together tens of thousands of people living around the park, including thousands of former peasants who, facing starvation in their villages, had uprooted their lives and moved into the capital city.

Through film and first-person essays, we present different dimensions of the Martissant Park project. These include the problem of identity in Haiti, the challenge of community building, and the method FOKAL chose to apply to bring gang members together with primary school headmistresses, rape victims together with voodoo priests, and survivors of the dead together with young men and women with a superabundance of energy and desire to make better lives for themselves.