The story of Wouzé began with a meditation.
Founder Janelle Clarke first learned meditation from a visiting monk to Toronto. After one particular meditation, she was moved to somehow make a difference.
She found herself experiencing deep compassion for a five year-old boy who was shot in a drive-by shooting in Toronto. She felt the need to do something. Organizing a fundraiser for him and his mother, Janelle worked every day for a week collecting donations. At the end of the week she delivered $2000 to the family.
Next came Hurricane Katrina. Janelle again, could not look away from the need she was seeing all over the news broadcasts. She flew down to Louisiana, creating youth programs for families who were displaced and living in shelters.
Then, came Haiti. Janelle went to Haiti for a one-week medical relief mission. She had no idea that this would transform her life so profoundly. What began as seven days away from home evolved into a new iteration of her life.
Then the 2010 earthquake ravaged Haiti.
Rather than retreat, Janelle became more dedicated to helping the people of Haiti rebuild. She created women’s empowerment groups for displaced women who were living in camps. Coordinating relief for these victims, Janelle began to feel at home in the community. She learned the local language, fell in love and got married to a Haitian man (see Jean’s story below!). All the while she was gaining a deeper understanding of the culture and appreciation for the women of the land.
Janelle and Jean moved back to Canada, where they became parents and professionals. Haiti was still in their thoughts. The communities they had worked in, the amazing people they got to know. They knew they still had a mission to bring to life.
Wouzé was born.
Wouzé means to water and is a traditional custom that is a part of every female farmer's life in Haiti.
Wouzé means to water the grounds. To keep dirt and bacteria away but also to water plants. The act of “Wouzé” encapsulates the day in the life of a Haitian woman. It is a simple act that demonstrates a Haitian woman’s desire to protect and grow life.
Janelle and Jean knew how central agriculture is to the lives of families in Haiti. Women do much of the agriculture work, where they grow and sell their produce at market. Janelle and Jean knew that if they could address some of the inequalities, unfair business practices and leverage the power of the women as a group, they could help them create more sustainable, prosperous farming lives.
Preserving the traditions and the lifestyle of these communities is essential to both founders. Part of Wouze’s mission is to honor and protect the traditions of the regions. With the right assistance, they believe the women, who work so hard from sun up to well beyond sun down, can thrive in their lives. And that is Wouze’s mission, to be the helping hand that gives these hard-working women the tools to succeed.
In 2006, Janelle completed a one-week medical relief mission to Haiti. She returned home to Canada, but her heart was still with Haiti and the people there. She knew there was more that could be done, more work that needed to be completed.
Janelle sold everything she owned and returned to Haiti where she lived and volunteered for five years. After the 2010 earthquake she acted both as Relief Coordinator, Projects Coordinator, and Community Development Manager for victims of the 2010 earthquake. Coordinating the delivery of emergency resources to 8,000 refugee victims living in 14 camps, Janelle identified the most vulnerable populations and participated in the successful handover of 600 emergency shelters.
Jean Ronald Brutus
As a Haitian native, Jean has played important logistical and advisory roles in non-profit organisations which have provided long-term and emergency relief to Haiti. Growing up in the metropolis of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, working in rural communities and living abroad has helped to shape his vision of what is possible for disadvantaged communities around the world.