|Posted on December 3, 2012 at 3:35 PM|
BTF: Tell us a little about yourself
DS: I was born in Haiti and immigrated to the States when I was 9 yrs old. I grew up in Brooklyn, NY and moved to Long Island during High School. I graduated with my Bachelors and Masters and have been a public servant all my life. As a new home owner in Queens, I am achieving the American dream. I am currently a Senior Manager for a major New York City Agency that employs over 750 people. I am also an Entrepreneur.
BTF: You are the founder and managing director of My Haiti Travels, how did you get it started?
DS: My Haiti Travels was created after organizing a trip to Haiti for a couple of friends. I could not find a reliable source that provided me information on where to stay, where to eat and what to do; when I did find information it was outdated. I had been to Haiti months prior and knew there were restaurants, bars, resorts, beautiful beaches, spas, and even a hookah bar. I was shocked that those things were not prominently showcased anywhere. Once I was able to secure the right services while in Haiti, my friends and I had the best experience ever.
When I came back to NY, I envisioned creating a service that had a directory of places in Haiti, but with reviews and ratings, similar to Yelp. I wanted people to have information and to help them make informed decisions about where to spend their money. At My Haiti Travels, we believe that if you frequent an establishment and spend your money you should get good service - even in Haiti. Businesses survive because of their customers.
Another vision we had for My Haiti Travels was to make it easy for you to travel to Haiti. A lot of people we spoke to didn't visit Haiti because they didn't know where to start, where to stay or where to eat. Haiti is a foreign place to many of us. At My Haiti Travels, you tell us how you want to spend your time and we'll arrange it. We work with your budget, and build your itinerary on what works for you; after all it is your time.
BTF: What is Impact Week 2013?
DS: Impact Week 2013 is our signature trip dedicated to giving clients a little taste of Haiti. We have something for everyone, quality dining, beaches, volunteerism, and touristic explorations of Haiti. Impact Week 2013 is designed to introduce people to the real Haiti.
We also included a Project Day because the trip is being held during Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. In the United States we celebrate MLK by giving back through community service, so we wanted to replicate that and also commemorate the January 2010 earthquake by providing our service to the youth in Haiti.
Haiti is a lot more than tent cities and poverty. The vision for Impact Week 2013 is to showcase a part of our country that the international community and even our own people don't know about.
BTF: How can organizations like My Haiti Travels change the perception of Haiti to the outside world?
DS: I grew up around a time where it wasn't cool to be Haitian in the U.S. Many of us did not speak our native tongue in public for fear of being chastised. This was a time when some of our brothers and sisters were claiming to be from other parts of the Caribbean rather than claim Haiti. I've been trying to change the perception of Haiti since I was a kid, whether it was marching with my parents on the Brooklyn Bridge to denounce the FDA's classification of Haitians, to educating people about my culture by serving as the Vice President of the Caribbean Club at college and now with the founding of My Haiti Travels.
At My Haiti Travels, we believe the best way to support Haiti is to visit, learn more about the country, spend money at local businesses and tell friends about your experience. My Haiti Travels is here to help make that a reality.
I think the perception of Haiti is starting to change. There are many foreigners investing in Haiti. There are boutique hotels being backed by some well known people in the States. Like they say in Haiti "Ayiti ap mache", don't get left behind.
BTF: Do you think that tourism in Haiti on the same scale as tourism in other Caribbean islands is going to be beneficial to Haiti’s culture and future?
DS: I think tourism in Haiti on the scale of other Caribbean countries done the right way can have a significant impact on the country, the people, the Diaspora, and the international community. Having a successful Tourism industry will make it possible for there to be a growing business sector. Also tourism can accelerate investments in infrastructure e.g. roads, hospitals, schools, utilities. It also provides jobs, and training allowing people to earn a living wage pay for their children's education and eventually rebuild the middle-class. It can also create demand for Haitian goods worldwide as more and more people experience the real Haiti.
Haiti is extraordinarily unique. We don't want to lose that. There is no need for another Bahamas in the Caribbean. Tourists in Haiti are not limited to spending their trip at a resort. They can actually leave and discover some exciting things. In Haiti, you can visit several natural waterfalls, have your dinner caught and cooked to your liking on the beach, witness a vodou ceremony, listen to a live band in the genre of your choice, enjoy multi-cultural cuisine, go to a club with flat screen TV's mounted on trees in a garden, and have direct access to some of the best art in the world. Having travelled to several countries in the Caribbean none can compare to Haiti's natural attractions and vibrant people.
BTF: Last but not least, what makes you a BelTiFi?
DS: I am BelTiFi because like you amazing Haitian-American women, I am "building bonds, bridging gaps, and breaking barriers". I am a BelTiFi because as you strive to "set the new standard of the traditional Haitian women", I'm working to change the image of Haiti.
Thank you for the opportunity. Keep up the great work that you are doing in our community.