Rayjon Share Care was founded in 1986 when Sarnia residents John Barnfield and the late Ray Wyrzykowski returned home from their first visit to Haiti. Heather Smith, Executive Director for Rayjon Share Care in Canada, explains that the original goals were simple. “They wanted to raise awareness of some of the injustices that were happening in Haiti, while also helping to spread the message of what a vibrant culture Haiti has, and what the Haitian people were doing to overcome injustice and poverty.”
From the beginning, there was the intention to build relationships between Canada and Haiti, together exchanging ideas, knowledge, and resources to help communities reach their goals for development. Since then, this grassroots, volunteer-based organization has relied on the caring residents of Sarnia-Lambton who have supported their mission with their time, talents, passion, and resources.
Rayjon’s Canadian team has learned a lot about international cooperation. However well-intentioned, acts of charity by Canadians can cause more harm than good, especially with limited understanding of the complex culture and context in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Rayjon’s work recognizes that for any development project to create lasting change, it needs to be envisioned, implemented and directed by the Haitian and Dominican people themselves—the ones who know best what the real needs of their communities are and how to solve them.
Rayjon’s role has become one of accompaniment, walking alongside their partners in solidarity and ensuring that they have the resources needed to determine their own future. With this strong model of community-led development, they are together achieving incredible success through education, health care, the empowerment of women, microcredit, and more.
One particular project that has captured the attention of donors while inspiring a whole generation of women is the “breadfruit project.” With funding from Rayjon and the women’s own personal investment, the Haitian Women’s Federation in St. Marc, Haiti has launched a sustainable breadfruit tree nursery and processing factory. This agri-business provides essential milling services and trains women in the cultivation of nutritious and versatile breadfruit. The first 500 saplings have been sold and another 1,000 are expected by the end of 2022. Their factory has become a source of reliable income for women. And 100% of the profits are reinvested back into their community to support education, health care, and business development.
Project director Renaud Thomas, a Haitian agronomist and development specialist says: “We invest in people and we want the result of the investment.” The Sarnia Rayjon team couldn’t agree more. “This group of strong women is showing us just what is possible when people put their heads together to remove barriers. Our role is to make sure they have the resources they need to get it done,” shares Heather.
Got a passion for social justice? You can make a difference with Rayjon! Consider a donation or join their diverse community of volunteers to help raise awareness about social justice issues, host fundraising events, and prepare used prescription eyeglasses for use in Eyeglass Clinics. Join Rayjon in building bridges of sharing—local to global.