Harmonizing instruments and voices of Haitian and Ghanaian members, the band Kreyol Roots created an environment of joy and community in the Fat Fish Pub. Two weeks ago on Feb. 17, the Chicago-based band performed for a fundraiser event for Resources to Resources, also known as R2R.
R2R is a non-profit organization founded by former Knox professor Daniel Beers and his wife Kymber Beers. Specifically, the organization teaches business skills to Haitian entrepreneurs, aids farmers with faster and more efficient agricultural practices and provides accessible savings accounts where each dollar a person saves is matched by a dollar donation.
Reflecting back on the event junior and Co-President of R2R, junior Ojashwi Sapkota felt like the event went a lot smoother than it did last year when they hosted the Kreyol Roots concert for the first time. Though they did not raise as much money as they aimed to, they were reminded by Beers that “every dollar helps Haiti.” R2R made $2,500, which was $1000 less than they had made last year.
“A couple of our faces dropped. We thought we would make $200 more. And Daniel was like, ‘Yeah, but it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, it’s not about every last cent that we’re making, it’s about [using] whatever people donate [to find] what’s the best way to help people,’” senior and treasurer of R2R Soumitra Thorat said
In the face of natural disasters such as Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Irma, R2R provides Haitians with the skills and financial support to rebuild and stabilize the security of their economy and lives. Since natural disasters continue to destroy the most fertile areas on the island, it’s difficult for Haitians to constantly rebuild their agricultural economies as well as begin new entrepreneurial endeavors. Sapkota stresses the importance of feeling connected to the culture behind the cause.
“For a lot of us, we hear so much about Haiti and Haitian people, and a lot of them are so sensationalized that you forget that they’re actual living people with a culture of their own, so I think that first-hand experience is a wonderful learning experience for all of us,” Sapkota said.
R2R hopes to continue to use their fundraising events to celebrate Haitian culture rather than capitalize on Haitians’ struggles. For example, the organization plans to incorporate Haitian food in an event during Spring Term.
While belting out the melodies that brought Haitian music to the Fat Fish Pub, Kreyol Roots singer Krissy said she enjoys coming out to Galesburg to rebuild communities on the island she calls home.
“It’s not the same [to perform for a charity event as it is to perform for other events] because there are some people in Haiti who do not have good opportunities. I always feel happy to help people,” she said.
Living in the U.S. for less than two years after growing up in Haiti, Krissy found a way to shine through Kreyol Roots.
“I feel free and I can feel the connection with the people. I don’t even know how to explain that, but I feel very, very good,” Krissy said.
Though Krissy loves singing onstage, she admits she can get nervous before a show.
“When I’m too excited, I try to breathe and I say, ‘Okay Krissy, come on, come on, what’s going on with you? You can do it,’” she said, “When I see a lot of people, sometimes I get a little scared but once I’m onstage, I feel very, very good.”
Singing in a room full of new faces may have given Krissy stage fright, but her passion for singing and helping others shone through it all.
Similarly, though planning an off campus event can produce challenges, junior Nick Ryan, a member of the R2R Executive Board for Public Relations and Communications, feels deep gratification from being a part of the concert’s planning.
“You put all this work and time and you know that so much of what you provide is going to have such a dramatic effect on people’s lives for the better,” he said. “And just knowing how the money is going to be used and in what ways and knowing it’s not just going to be a trivial pursuit and help in the short term but really bring families and generations out of poverty,” he said.
R2R holds the Kreyol Roots concert off campus in order to stay true to their organization’s values of community inclusion in both Haiti and Galesburg. All of the event’s funds went directly to Haitian grassroots organizations that request specific needs. R2R is able to do this by not having an overhead in the U.S. or accumulating any of the money for the next event’s cost. To make their events possible, R2R receives help from clubs at Knox and small businesses in Galesburg to maintain inclusion and celebrate Haitian culture.
R2R hopes to continue the annual charity event and expand the organization’s scope. However, since they want to keep the organization’s foundations of education, genuine connection and authenticity of media, they have decided to prioritize grounding a strong core group at Knox. While Daniel Beers now teaches at James Madison University, he and Kymber Beers continue to keep working with R2R. While Beers is trying to influence his new campus to start an R2R group, the organization’s core beliefs emphasize quality over quantity, assuring that it’s members know more than what one could learn in a single hour information session.
Celebrating the community and Haitian culture, the annual Kreyol Roots concert stands as a reflection of the core values that R2R emphasizes to make an honest and genuine impact on Haitian people.