Arndell LeBlanc | jhrc President
During the Living your Legacy Conference organized by Youth Action Montreal, I had the chance to sit down for a one on one chat with founder of OneXOne and current CEO of Diesel Jeans Canada, Joey Adler – Berdugo.
Arndell: Joey, as you know we live in a short form society now. With 140 character limits to describe a point or thought, what would your message be to this generation? In a bite size form that they can understand.
Joey: Like all young generations, you see our generations, the ones before you and you don’t want to be the same. It’s almost like your biding your time. But you shouldn’t be you should be looking to see what you can do as an individual. Thats my message, bring everything down to the unit of one. One life, one act of kindness one simple change…now bring a collective force of ones and see the exponential change.
A: Your projects that are currently in Haiti, what regions are they in the capital Port-au-Prince or the provinces?
J: Actually we don’t believe of going into Port-au-Prince because Port-au-Prince was one of the most densely populated places on the face of the earth.
A: So it wasn’t sustainable?
J: It wasn’t sustainable, it was built to hold 50 000 and it held you take your pick some say 3million 4 million 5 million, I don’t know. So the whole idea is to begin to create opportunity for migration outside the province.
Our project, we have many by the way, were building a paediatric ward with Partners in Health in a hospital in Mirebalais which an hour an a half in the cetral plateau. Their huge partners of ours. Then we are building a community centre which is about 45 minutes outside of Port aux Prince, where there are school being build and a whole community being brought up . On the entrepreneurial side were building a factory, thats going up in Croix-des-Bouquets. Croix de bouquet is a town on the road on the way to the Dominican Republic , it’s a town of tremendous creativity. So were spreading ourselves around.
A: I know that partners in health are actually pulling out, especially out of University Hospital in Port aux Prince, is it because of that, because your going out to the regions?
J: You have to understand that Paul Farmer and his partners, established partners in health 30 years ago in Haiti, it was about bringing healthcare outside of Port-au-Prince. Was about about giving healthcare to small regional centres they built ten of them in Haiti, to give where there was none.
When the earthquake hit, the government came to Paul, obviously the medical system of Haiti was completely literally decimated and they asked Partners in Health to oversee the three hospital during the whole emergency crisis. That has never been Paul’s mandate. That is probably why they are getting out.
To give you an idea, the hospital in Mirebalais started off as a small project, small similar to the regionals, when we committed OneXOne it was a 1 million dollar project todays it’s a 6 million project. It’s a 20 million dollar project because it’s going to become the teaching centre. It’s going to be a teaching hospital, 347 bed, 6-7 operating theaters state of the art.
A: How does one go from a business side to a humanitarian. These seem to be two different routs
J: I’m saying it’s not, I’m saying put it together. I’m saying that it shouldn’t be. Pure philanthropy doesn’t work.
A: Why not?
J: Look. Does it work?
A: Well I mean, I’m asking you.
J: 50 years in Africa, a trillion dollars, what have we done?
A: Well there are still problems thats for sure.
J: Huge problems. Did you know that before the earthquake in Haiti, 10 000 NGOs were bringing 1 billion dollars worth of aid into Haiti. Philanthropy doesn’t work. Pure Philanthropy doesn’t work…it’s necessary , but it’s not the long term sustainable solution.
Sustainable change is in investment business job creation letting people have dignity in life. Standing in line to take food form someone while your chid watches you, could be the least dignifying thing a human being can do.
We do all these things in these countries without having an understanding of who they are and worry about their dignity. They go build these shoddy schools, that are cinderblocks without thinking what do the kids need, what are the blackboards going to look like, what are the kids going to feel when they walk into these places. We don’t do things for sustainability.
We keep putting bandaids on the cancer.
Thats why I don’t believe in pure philanthropy.
A: There have been a lot of accusations, especially in Haiti, that NGOs go there to make money for themselves. They get pictures of crying kids, of sick kids and get them for money.
J: When I went down for the first trip in Haiti on January the 16th, my board of directors includes Edward Rogers from Rogers Communications. When we were on the phone the night before deciding what we were going to do, somebody said “ Should we go down there?” and Edward said ”No, just Joey, we don’t need to turn this into some sort of voyeurism” When I went down on the first flight from air canada, I was the only NGO that was alone.
I did one interview in my time there and I regretted it. We worked 8 missions, 8 weeks in an row and we never did any advertisement. We were the most successful NGO on the ground in my opinion. 700 000 thousand pounds, the reason we got that was because we were unknown. Now the CEO of Air Canada sits on our board. No cameras, no interview, no fanfare, just get the job done.
I hate. I hate that we think that we have to use the media. I also don’t believe that we have to use kids that are crying. From the day that we started our foundation if you go to our webseite you will never see anything but a smiling kid. I said it today, that optimism and good feeling is what is going to change the world. Going in and taking pictures of dead people I think is disrespectful.
My RCMP officers that were driving me around when we landed told me, “were busy driving people around, instead of helping people out of the rubble.” So when we all landed down there, we sucked up a lot of the resources in the country. Thats why I never stayed over night. I flew in on a Air Canada jet and I flew out on a air Canada. I stayed no longer than it took to drop off the supplies. I did that 8 weeks in a row. At a very high cost to myself. So I understand what your saying, it’s disgusting to me and I live with it every day in the philanthropic work.
You can only do what you do yourself, you can only live with yourself and you cant judge what other people do everyone will judge themselves. It’s not our way.
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Interview by Arndell LeBlanc President of Journalist for Human Right Concordia Chapter. Photos by Navneet Pall, contributing photographer and Photo Editor of the Concordian.