L’union Fait la Force: Why Karen Civil Is Determined To Give Back To The Youth In Haiti
By Stephanie Ogbogu
Children of immigrants face a unique challenge of living life as an American while maintaining their family’s culture. Factor in the desire to give back to your home country and life as a first-generation American can be quite complex.
Haitian-American media and marketing maven, Karen Civil, knows this all too well. Not only has she maintained a successful career in the entertainment industry stateside, but she’s also been able to use her triumphs to inspire the youth in Haiti and give back in major ways.
Civil grew up in a Haitian-American family in Elizabeth, New Jersey where she attended Elizabeth High School and Union County College. She first gained notoriety create and run Weezythanxyou.com, a website where rapper Lil Wayne published letters to his fans while he was incarcerated at Rikers Island. Since then, she’s worked with the likes of Funkmaster Flex, Nicki Minaj, Nipsey Hussle, Beats by Dre, Hillary Clinton, Louis Vuitton, and many more.
In 2014, Civil broke ground on the Live Civil Playground in Pétionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The playground, made of recycled materials such as bamboo and tires, featured educational games and interactive musical instruments to help encourage strategy building and problem-solving skills.
In 2017, Karen Civil returned to Haiti to open a STEM-focused computer lab. The Live Civil Computer Lab is located at the House of Hope Orphanage in Titanyen, Haiti. Civil, along with Beats by Dre and Vans, donated 20 computers, Beats by Dre headphones, and a pair of shoes for the school’s students.
Travel Noire spoke to Karen about her philanthropic efforts in Haiti and what she plans to do for her country next.
Travel Noire: Why is it important for you to give back to Haiti?
Karen Civil: My parents are from Haiti and they have given me so much. I’m now in a position to give back to the country that has given my parents so much. I want the youth in Haiti to have the same advantages that children in America do.
TN: Why did you decide to build a playground and computer lab in Haiti?
KC: I really understand the power of play and giving kids a safe playground where they can let go of their troubles, have fun with their friends, and just enjoy their adolescence.
The Internet is what helped shape my career. Being able to give Haitian kids an opportunity t0 interact with people across the globe is important to me. I wanted them to have a chance to see new horizons for career opportunities and learn things that may not be in the books provided by their school.
Each year I return to Haiti, I hope that whatever I bring contributes to the betterment of the youth for the long term.
TN: What are some things you think children in Haiti need more of. How can we help?
KC: There are a few things the children of Haiti need that I think we take for granted. For example, they need proper transportation to school, basic school items like book bags, notebooks, and pencils, and hygiene items.
You can do your part by donating to the Live Civil Foundation.
TN: As a Haitian-American woman, how do you feel about the way your country is portrayed?
KC: Haiti, for a very long time, was a country that was looked at as destitute and a place people didn’t want to visit. Haiti is so much more — the resilience, the land, the people, and the wonderful beaches, are things people are starting to experience and appreciate more over the last few years. It’s great to see the narrative change.
TN: What are some of your favorite things to do when you visit Haiti?
KC: The beach is always a favorite of mine. Of course, I enjoy stopping by a local orphanage or school.
TN: What are some reasons travelers should visit Haiti? What makes it a great travel destination?
KC: The beaches, the scenery, and the people are just so beautiful.
TN: When is your next trip to Haiti?
KC: I’m setting my sights on going back in October or for Flag Day (May 18) in 2020.
Karen says she isn’t the only Haitian-American influencer that is giving back. She mentions Wanda Tima (L’union Suite), Claudia Joseph, boxer Andre Berto, and NFL player Pierre Garcon as being just a few others.
When asked if Karen had any final words, she added, “L’union fait la force,” which translates to “Unity makes strength.”