Marie Rivette wants to help Haiti move forward after disaster

By Brian Canever September 23, 2014

Marie Soudnie Rivette has a keen eye for social wrongs.

Over her 12-year professional career, she has worked with men and women of varying ages and circumstances to improve the quality of their lives through education, civic engagement and sport.

Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, capital city of the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country, Rivette witnessed first-hand the difficulties of daily life for individuals living in communities wracked with poverty, lack of suitable healthcare and political instability.

Outside of those external troubles, Rivette experienced her own deep, personal loss as a teenager when both of her parents passed away.

“I had great parents and it was really difficult for me to lose them at a young age,” she says. “But in many ways, it spurred me forward in my life; it forced me to get out there and to strive to be my best.”

During this time, Rivette found solace in church and volleyball. With a profound motivation to lead in both of those areas, she set the current in motion for the rest of her life’s path.

“I grew up in church, so the first thing I did when my mother passed was continue in church,” says Rivette. “I also…joined a local volleyball club. I took on leadership roles in both the club and my church and used my personal story of loss to encourage others to make the most of every second.”

Rivette’s heart for people in pain led her to pursue a degree in social communication from the University of Haiti. A year after graduation she moved to Barbados where she attended the University of the West Indies and studied gender analysis and project management.

Following jobs as a consultant for Coordination Europe-Haiti and Oxfam, where she was later named Senior Project Manager, Rivette watched as the 2010 Haiti earthquake claimed the lives of more than 150,000 people and caused widespread damage and displacement throughout the country.

She immediately joined the relief effort and focused her work on how Haitians could learn to move on from their disaster and build an improved society together.

“When the earthquake happened, lots of people mobilized to give water and food,” recalls Rivette. “But as the time drew on, this system of dependency became disempowering.”

“Man cannot live only with food and water; they must also experience dignity. Haitians are people that want to build their own future, to raise their own voice. So I [help to] mobilize, empower and connect them to the right people so that together we can overcome the challenges we are still facing.”

At the moment, Rivette serves as Coordinator for Oxfam’s Gender and Active Citizenship Program, where she is responsible for promoting increased participation in sports, as well as establishing programs that teach both analytical and general life skills to the 10 million citizens of the island.

With the help of the Global Sports Mentoring program, Rivette also hopes to learn how to turn the country’s existing sports structures into booming social enterprises that promote equity and social justice – an important need in a place where the richest 1 percent own nearly half of the country’s wealth and child labor, especially among at-risk girls, remains prominent.

“I want to contribute to the emergence of a society which guarantees its men and women a social environment where their fundamental rights are protected….without discrimination owing to gender, skin color or social status,” says Rivette.

Considering that she has placed that objective at the very top of her CV, there is little doubt she will continue to be a difference maker in Haiti in the future.