French Sailors Share Solidarity in Haiti…and Beyond

From left to right: Albéric, Antoine, Gauthier

A group of three friends from Marseille, France…Albéric Tezenas, Gauthier Marre, and Antoine Goutay… brought their dream to life over this past year. Since high school, the friends shared a dream of traveling the world by boat.

“When we were in high school, united by common convictions, we had a lot of dreams. Among them, which was a little bit crazy, was to sail around the globe. A few years later, the opportunity finally came! We could all take a break from one year in our University studies, at the same time. We knew it was now or never! We set up an association and prepared ourselves to discover the oceans…the unexpected and the beauty of the world. Following a simple vision, daring to inspire, we embarked on this great adventure with the will to share the values we believe will help us build a better world…combining our triple challenges…sport, ecology, and solidarity.”

As university students, with limited funds, the three friends created an organization they called Ankouraje, which means Keep it Up in English. With financial support from friends, families, and institutions, they secured the funds needed to reach for their goal. The group departed from the Port of Marseille on November 14, 2017.

Their dream was not only to discover the oceans and world outside of Marseille. Albéric, Gauthier, and Antoine also wanted to make a difference in the lives of others. When looking for an organization to partner with for this aspect of their adventure, they identified common interests. They knew they wanted to stay in one location to help for an extended period of about two months, and, since their adventure was happening on the sea, they all agreed the organization should be related to water.

During their research, they discovered Pure Water for the World. Conversations between the group and the PWW Haiti team began and a plan was put into place for them to join PWW in Haiti to help with the installation of biosand water filters in family homes.

To really immerse themselves in helping the people of Haiti, Gauthier had a brilliant idea to raise 1 euro for each nautical mile they traveled. These funds would help to provide clean water to families in the impoverished community of Cité Soleil.

“We wanted to find a way to connect our various challenges, including the sport and our mission in Haiti. Gauthier had the idea to collect 1 euro for each nautical mile we would be doing by boat. Looking at our planned route, we quickly came to the conclusion that we would travel about 15,000 nautical miles. The amount seemed high initially, but we are very proud to have persevered and to have reached the whole amount!”

After four months of sailing, on March 2, 2018, Albéric, Gauthier, and Antoine landed in Haiti. They joined the PWW team for a total of seven weeks. During this time, they learned more about the work of PWW and about how a biosand filter works; they were able to see and experience, firsthand, the significant impact the PWW team is creating in Haiti; they immersed themselves into the Haitian culture; and, they helped install water filters in 60 homes in Cité Soleil, providing sustainable, life-changing access to clean water for these children and families.

When asked about their experience in Cité Soleil, they shared, “The first things we saw on the internet when we were doing research was…’Cité Soleil: the poorest and most dangerous city/ghetto in Haiti’. That said, we were still excited to go because we had full confidence in Pure Water for the World’s local staff. Once there, we found children playing football; others dancing to Haitian music; people going to work in shirts with ties. In short, we found Cité Soleil to be a place full of life as we see it outside of this community. We were very well received by all of the beneficiary families.”

The group spoke of their mission for “solidarity”. When asked what that word means to them, they said: “Solidarity presents a major challenge in our changing societies. It is, above all, the link that unites the destiny of each one of us. We are all inhabitants of the same planet, and we must all serve the common interest. It is in this perspective that we chose to come to Haiti, with the idea of establishing a fraternal bond with those we have not had the chance to meet. Through dialogue, the confrontation of our realities, our union with Pure Water for the World, we have been able to create this link many times. We are happy and very proud to have been able to stand together with the Haitian people.

“What we must remember, above all, is the reciprocity of our exchange. While we gave a little bit of our time, we will remember what they offered us in return…their warm welcome, their immense joy of life, their infinite smiles, and their ability to be resilient. It is the Haitian people, themselves, who have shown the most beautiful solidarity, offering us everything they own.”

At the end of their visit, Albéric, Gauthier, and Antoine reflected on their experience with the PWW team in Haiti.

“We really felt a desire on the part of each staff member to fully welcome us. You have all shown immense kindness, and we can never thank you enough. It was great to work in the different areas of the organization, and we learned a lot from each other, in terms of your technical skills as well as your human values and life experiences. A big thank you to all!”

“What really impressed us is the vision that PWW has over the long term. Your action does not only solve an emergency problem; you participate in the development of the country. The 20+ year lifespan [of the filters] and post-installation monitoring give a lot of value to your filters. Moreover, the fact that this American NGO is made up of Haitians in its majority is a real strength in our opinion. You are fully integrated at all levels in the local context.” 

Albéric, Gauthier, and Antoine’s time in Haiti went quickly. The PWW team was very grateful for their hard work and dedication to making a difference. Upon departure, it would take them about two months to make their way back. June 30th recently marked their arrival in France and the end of their sailing adventure.

The entire PWW team extends heartfelt gratitude to this amazing group of young men. We deeply appreciate their courage, their conviction, and their commitment to solidarity. They have made a tremendous impact on lives and in the hearts of many. We look forward to how they will continue to make a positive impact in our world!