Interview with Carline Brice of HavServe Volunteer Service Network


I’m delighted to present the second in the interview series hosted by Embrace the Struggle (ETS)!  Our guest today is Ms. Carline Brice, the founder and director of HavServe Volunteer Service Network.  Read the excerpts from the interview below to see how she and her team are making a difference in rural Haiti.  

You can read the entire interview here, or listen to it here.

Alison:  What is HavServe?  How did it come about?  

Carline: HavServe is a team of volunteers and pro bono consultants, and we use our free time to do what we see needs to be done here in the U.S. as well as in Haiti.  HavServe came about after the earthquake in 2010.

Alison:   What was the trigger for you, personally?

 I left for Haiti after the earthquake.  We took back-to-school supplies and hygiene kits and went to nine villages to do the distribution and meet with local and other nonprofit organizations.  

We met several individuals from all over the world who were going to Haiti, trying to help, but they did not have an organized way to go about it.  The Government was not responding to the help they were offering, and we thought that HavServe Volunteer Service Network could be an organized volunteer program where people who would like to give their services to Haiti could apply.  Then we could place them in programs so that they can have a direct contact and coordinate the work so that they can have the intended impact.

Schoolkids receive their backpacks and school supplies (Photo credit – HavServe)

Alison: Explain the name HavServe.

Carline:  The initial name was Haiti Volunteer Service Network, and after discussion with the board members and other volunteers, we decided that in 2010, there was a need in Haiti, but there will be need in other places. So instead we called it HavServe. “Ha” is for Haiti, “Serve” is for Service; so, HavServe.

The idea is that if you have time, you serve, and all of us have a few minutes we can give. If you have something you feel you can give to somebody else in need, then you serve.

Alison:  HavServe right now is mostly focused on the village of Lebrun in Haiti. What was it about Lebrun that made it your choice?

Lebrun’s lush landscape (Photo credit – HavServe)

Carline:  Lebrun was the village my grandmother came from.  When I was a kid, that’s where I used to spend summer vacation. When I went back, instead of improving, the place was deteriorating.  It was really heartbreaking to see the level of deterioration.  Children were not going to school, and the elders had passed away, so there was a certain level of neglect.  And from 2010 to today, we have been able to organize the community, help them focus on doing certain things on their own to make life better for themselves and their families.

Alison:  Where have you been getting volunteers from? 

Carline:   Our online outreach has been very good.  We are identifying something that people want to do, and we provide the platform for them to get involved through our web site, Facebook, Twitter, Volunteer Match, the United Nations Online volunteer program, and Idealist.  Some of them contacted us and some of them we contacted.  We wanted to work with them based on the type of work they were doing, and now we have volunteers from 22 countries in our database. 

Volunteer and young Lebrunian check out a photo (Photo credit – HavServe)

Alison:   Most of what HavServe is doing is linked to the Millennial Development Goals.  Which of them are the most important?

 Carline:   There are three things that are needed badly in Lebrun.  The number one need is education.  There are so many children who are not going to school, young people who are just hanging around doing absolutely nothing.  The second one is health. There are no doctors, no clinic.  The third one is livelihood.  There are a lot of people who would like to have something to do in order to provide for their family but they do not have the know-how.  So we are trying to provide them with the training and the ideas on how to go about finding the support and the resources they need to create jobs or find a job. 

Carline shares a teachable moment with kids in Lebrun (Photo credit – HavServe)

Alison:   Paint a picture of what it’s like to see those volunteers go to Lebrun, because this isn’t Port-au-Prince… 

Carline:   It’s very taxing, very hard.  I’m really fascinated and very grateful, and for me it’s a blessing to see so many people interested to help because if you are not used to seeing that level of poverty, of suffering, it can be mentally and emotionally hard.  And the traveling is not easy.  Haiti doesn’t have good roads, and it’s very hot.  It’s very chaotic.  

HavServe volunteer and Lebrun girls share a happy moment (Photo credit – HavServe)

Alison:   Describe the response of the people of Lebrun to having so many volunteers being willing to come in and help.

Carline:   At the beginning, it was very hard to convince the community that we are volunteering. They actually thought that we were getting paid to come into the community to work.  And there is a certain level of cynicism in Haiti about foreigners.  Even myself, who was born in Haiti and they know my family, they look at me as a foreigner.  It’s like, we’re coming to take a photo or observe their situation.  

So we created a system of ongoing communication.  The first item on our order of business is to meet with the local community, introduce them to the new or the same volunteers, explain to them why we are here, what we want to do, how we want to do it, and what we expect from them.  We also listen to their concerns, ideas, vision, because they also have a vision for their community. Then we see how we can blend their vision with our vision so that we can work together to make it happen. 

HavServe group meeting (Photo credit – HavServe)

Alison:   What do you think has been the highlight of everything that’s been done so far in Lebrun? 

Carline:   The highlight is that we were able to bring the community together. It’s like almost every segment of the population now has a vision of what needs to be done in order for them to change their community for the better.  The young people are engaged, the elders are engaged, the women are engaged.  And they are looking forward to what’s next. 

Alison:  What do you envisage HavServe looking like in 2020? 

Carline:   Our vision is to have a very strong group of people who completely embrace the idea that if we have time, we can do something in this world.  We want people who have been and who will get involved in HavServe to be looking around your community, your life and say:  “What can I do to make this world a better place?  Who can I mentor?  Who can I reach out to?”  

Vegetable garden preparation in Lebrun (Photo credit – HavServe)

Alison:   Look at pre-earthquake-of-January-2010 Carline, and look at Carline today, 2012 August.  How has your life story changed by being a founder and a director of HavServe? 

Carline:   It is moving me from looking within to looking outside of myself.  Around 2010, I was really focused on me and my children and my environment, even though I had always been involved in Haiti, but I was doing it at a distance.  

But by going to Haiti often and listening to women, to young people, to see what’s happening in the country…  There are a lot of people like me who have been blessed to get out of the country and can go back in and do what we can.  We can make a difference!

Read the entire interview here, or listen to it here.


  1. HavServe sounds like a wonderful organization. Sadly, they are right. There will continue to be needs beyond Haiti even as the people of haiti continue to need our help. Thanks for shining a light on this group.
    Mo at Mocadeaux recently posted..Mo Wine Please – ViognierMy Profile

    • The Haiti file always has my heart, Mo. I’ve been there twice, and the level of poverty, amidst unparalleled beauty, is mind-blowing. Carline is doing a great job and it was a delight to share her story with others.

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