In general, Canadian society is marked by individualism. We value the rights of the individual and believe in the virtues of personal independence and achievement. In many ways, this perspective is in contrast with Haitian society and value, which places greater emphasis the importance of the group (whether the community or the family) over the individual. In Haiti, your identity is not just about who you are as an individual, your identity derives meaning from your role in the family, in the community, and from the spirits of your ancestors.

In economically wealthy societies where people are able to “support themselves” they depend less and less on other people. We often pride ourselves on our independence and often define ourselves by how much we earn, the car that we drive. Our possessions become part of our identity.

  For the many societies around the world where people have few possessions and many needs, sharing and reciprocity is essential. Ones willingness to share becomes a defining part of your identity. As you will hear from the speakers in this episode, this willingness to share is vitally important in Haitian culture. Cooperation is expressed through the exchange of labour (through collective work group called konbits), the sharing of goods (such as bringing food to a neighbour when a family member dies) and the giving of money (such as the community contributing money to a newlywed couple). The lessons of collectivism are passed down through the generations. We as Canadians have a lot to learn from these lessons as well.