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An Interview with Morgan Wienberg, M.S.C. (Part Three)

September 15, 2017

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 15.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Nine)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: September 15, 2017

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2017

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 3,688

ISSN 2369-6885

1

Abstract

An interview with Morgan Wienberg, M.S.C. She discusses: ethic that drives the work; benefits in interpersonal interactions with Haitians through speaking English and Creole; partnerships with organizations; tasks and responsibilities as the Co-Founder, Coordinator, and Head of Haiti Operations for Little Footprints Big Steps International Development Organization; best personal aspects of the position; most emotionally ‘taxing’ part of the work for her; relevant preparation from high school for the humanitarian pursuit; easiest and hardest aspects of coordination of a diverse, multi-disciplinary team; strengths in a diverse team; main differences between Haiti and Canada and being culturally sensitive; and benefits and downsides of each culture.

Keywords: Humanitarianism, Little Footprints Big Steps International Development Organization, Morgan Wienberg.

An Interview with Morgan Wienberg, M.S.C.: Co-Founder, Coordinator, and Head of Haiti Operations, Little Footprints Big Steps International Development Organization (Part Three)[1],[2],[3],[4],

*Footnotes in & after the interview, & citation style listing after the interview.*

*This interview has been edited for clarity and readability.*

*Images in Appendix I: Photographs.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What is the ethic that drives this for you?

Morgan Wienberg: [Laughing] I see all people as having the same rights. The fact that these children can be so stripped of their rights. I do not feel I can accept it. I need to do something about it. I am reminded of the conditions of the kids in the beginning. It is upsetting that children who are supposed to be protected by society can be badly hurt and abused by the adults.

Adults who are supposed to be protecting them. That many people can see it and accept it. Part of the issue is people go to Haiti and, because it is Haiti, will accept that this child is emaciated or too weak to stand up. Or that the adult is whipping the child with a metal cord. Child rights are universal. There’s the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

If a country is not developed or has some cultural undertones, that does not change the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We should not accept the ill-treatment of the young. They need more support to be implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Some people when they go to Haiti accept and forget it because “it’s Haiti.”

2. Jacobsen: You speak English and Creole. How does this benefit interpersonal interactions with Haitians?

My speaking English and Creole influenced my abilities to better understand Haitian culture and the things happening at the moment, especially with street children in particular. I learned about street children by sitting with them in the afternoon and talking with them. I had a communication barrier, which made building relationships and trust difficult.

I dealt with a fair share of deception and corruption. My speaking the language helps me learn my lesson or be aware of risks, especially of repeats of deception and corruption. In terms of managing staff and being fully communicating expectations with them, and to understand their perspective, it plays a huge role. I cannot express it.

Even in the integration into the community, I needed to understand the culture and family dynamics. I would not know without knowing Creole. When I went to Haiti in 2010, I knew French and got by with it. When I went to the orphanage in 2011, the children didn’t speak French. I began to speak Creole by communicating with them.

My understanding of the real situation came from speaking the language and with the children. They spoke of the families back home. The kids could be coming to orphanages for years and the parents would not know the truth. I found out about the situation for the kids and their families, and the details of the abuse, is from the children talking to me.

3. Jacobsen: Did learning Creole/Kreyol improve trust and camaraderie with Haitians?

It makes me stand out. Haitians are surprised when I speak to them. I have been able to present in a court house, in the legal system, to participate in meetings with other local authorities, and so on. I am able to fully express myself. It helps them understand my objectives and way of thinking. In the beginning, when they don’t fully understand my objectives, I met hostility from the authorities.

They were better able to understand what I am doing. We are partners now. When people in the community see me speaking Creole, they like it.

4. Jacobsen: You mentioned partnerships. What organizations?

We partner with the local child protection authorities. In particular, IBESR (Institut du Bien-Etre Social et de Recherches), which is the equivalent of Haitian social services. So, they are the child protection authority. Other government departments include the Ministry for Women’s Rights, Ministry for Handicapped People’s Rights, and Social Affairs.

All of those institutions are part of a network, which is the Groupe du Travail pour la Protection des Enfants (GTPE-Sud) in Haiti. It is a regional network that covers the entire Southern department of Haiti, but it’s based on Les Cayes. This group was originally formed in 2010 following the earthquake as the cluster group for child protection. Now, it has a different name. LFBS is part of the group. Same with the governmental departments.[5]

We have meetings with IBESR once a month, even every two weeks. We work with IBESR about once-a-week. Also, with the Child Protection Brigade of the Police, we help each other out. In particular, where a child has been sexually assaulted, we will be working with the police and the Ministry for Women’s Rights. Other organizations focus on children in conflict with the law.

We work with them, for years now. We help them work with specific case studies. They offered us psychologists to see some children, which we have in the program. They have a social worker doing weekly training with my staff. They let us use their space for different activities. Similar to Haitian social services. Before we had a truck, they let us use their vehicle.

Now, we let them use our vehicle. They help us with children. They place children in the state houses. For example, last week, IBESR had a lost girl. We took her into our girls’ home until they could reunite her with her family. We have good, close working partnerships with the organizations. We have collaborative initiatives too. One main initiative is community training for prevention of sexual assault.

We will go into rural communities and train people about sexual abuse, how they can protect children, and how to react if you’re a victim or someone that you know is a victim. We create committees in those communities. So, community members can keep with the initiative and in contact with us. We are doing this as a group.

5. Jacobsen: You remain the Co-Founder, Coordinator, and Head of Haiti Operations for Little Footprints Big Steps International Development Organization. What tasks and responsibilities come with this station?

When I started the organization, it was one outreach worker and me. Literally, I would walk with the child to their family, sitting down, having meetings with the family, doing mediation, and helping the child purchase school supplies and go to the hospital. Now, we work to make the support more sustainable, able to expand, and less dependent on me.

Now, I coordinate staff schedules. My staff does those things. They work on their tasks. I do the follow-up afterward. Also, I coordinate with partners. If there is a particularly vulnerable family, I will ask a social worker from social services to accompany my staff to work with that child. Now, I focus on coordinating staff activities in following up with the kid and working on longer-term development or expansion of the programs.

However, I see first-hand things with the kids. My personal connection with the children motivates me. If I was the only one rather than my staff doing the work, I would be limiting the number of people potentially impacted.

6. Jacobsen: What seem the best aspects of this position on a personal level?

I am able to see the growth and empowerment of people. When working intimately with them, you see them every day. I see growth and empowerment with the kids. I look at staff at times. It motivates me. I see them grow. I see them passionate about child protection issues, too. Also, it is exciting to get involved in the big picture in everything we can accomplish.

We gain momentum in working with others. The biggest thing that I love most about this position is dreaming big and making those dreams a reality.

7. Jacobsen: Big dreams are big risks. What seems like the most emotionally ‘taxing’ part for you?

It is extremely, extremely stressful. I struggle with choosing. You have to choose. It is a huge privilege to be able to choose to help someone. However, there are many, many people asking and needing help. You have to choose the person. It is a constant battle within me. You can not anticipate who will advance the most with the support given to them by you. It is difficult.

Sometimes, there are kids who abuse the support in the beginning. Believing in the child, when they do not believe in themselves, it is part of what will result in change. At the same time, in choosing to help the child, you are telling others “no.” Constantly, I wonder if these are the right decisions among competing ones. Also, who am I to choose over people’s lives?

The task is immense. I have to make the decision. It is hard. Also, the trauma for the kids. It might be over. However, it’s hard, emotionally. It is a slow process for the kids to heal from trauma.

8. Jacobsen: You mentioned some board member work before. What other preparation from high school was relevant from this humanitarian pursuit?

Everything from childhood prepared me. Also, it is not something that you could have looked at and prepared yourself for, or have expectations. I had the extreme motivation and inner strength (the biggest thing) to be able to do this. In knowing the activities of the board, my work seeing the meetings help me. I can know what to present.

9. Through the coordination of Little Footprints Big Steps International Development Organization, you work with numerous personalities.[6] What seems like the easiest and hardest aspects of coordination of a diverse, multi-disciplinary team?

My staff on the ground and the board of directors are different groups. They deal with different aspects of the organization. I am the on tying them together. I feed information to both of them. It’s interesting to me. It is unique to be able to connect the two different worlds. It is powerful, especially for the staff on-the-ground to be heard and considered on a team with people like Pamela Hine.

It can be difficult to communicate the reality on-the-ground to the Board of Directors at times. It is hard to give a full picture.

[Laughing]

At the same time, they are understanding and encouraging. With the local staff, there are some cultural challenges at times. I have been attempting to focus on their wellbeing. I went to a conference in India earlier this year.

One theme was about caring for the caretakers. When you think about it, they have been through trauma, work through stressful days, and the kids are not always respectful. I want to focus on the wellbeing and training of the local staff. I have seen them be more independent, motivated, and engaged because they feel value and potential for themselves.

I have worked closely with the local staff compared to the board of directors. I communicate with them more because I am in primarily Haiti. However, the staff needs the constant presence and communication more than the board of directors.

10. Jacobsen: You noted the difficulties run one way. Not from local workers in Haiti to the board members, but from the board members understanding the situation on the ground for the LFBS staff. That’s an interesting note. If you have a diverse team split in team streams, what strengths does this diverse team bring to the organization?

Definitely, there is a strength. My local staff completely understand the culture and the reality of what we are dealing with in Haiti. I have the international board. They have a level of education and contacts, and perception. That can be applied to Haiti. When you combine the two, it works really well. When you bring people on board, you are developing contacts Haitians would not think about for LFBS.

I am being fed contacts from the international side and am able to bring that to LFBS staff. I can then apply this in a culturally sensitive way. It is subtle. We can bring unique methods and contacts, but make them work for the community.

11. With respect to cultural sensitivity and differences, or a careful ‘trotting’ around or between the two, what are the main differences between Haiti and Canada? How would you be culturally sensitive?

Those are some difficult questions. To be culturally sensitive, it is about being open-minded and recognizing when going to Haiti s a different culture and system. You should not have expectations in Haiti as if it’s North America. You should be willing to learn, pick up on the culture, and see how people interact here. That can be ‘easier said than done’. People take many expectations from North America.

It is about bringing something to Haiti rather than learning and taking in Haiti. The biggest difference is communication. I find communication different. Communication has been something work with the local staff a bit. Another major difference is people in Haiti value relationships over time. For instance, if you are in a meeting, and come across someone with an issue, a Haitian would not even think twice about stopping and talking to that person to help them with the issue, and then arrive late to the meeting.

They would not think twice about it. A North American might feel stressed about being 15 minutes late. It depends on the person. (Laughs)

[Laughing]

In North America, we are time focused. In Haiti, they are relationship focused. It has its strengths. (Laughs) It has its difficult moments as well.

12. Jacobsen: With time, it makes the society more productive. With relationships, it benefits mental well-being. Downsides are the reduction of well-being and lost time, respectively.

It is something that I notice coming back to North America. It is part of the enjoyment and connectedness with Haitian society (more than North America at times). Human interactions are lacking at times in North America. We have materialistic values. That has taken the place of human contact and interaction. In Haiti, if something happens to me in the middle of the street, even if I did not know the area, I know 20 people will work to help me.

In North America, you can be part of a community in North America and not be a part of their life, and so be ignored by them – or they are stressed about meeting timelines. I can be affected by it. It works well with LFBS work. When you’re working with families attempting to build trust with these traumatized children, it is about the relationships and the interactions.

Often much more than timelines.

References

[David Truman]. (2016, March 9). Morgan. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWbgIF1NO5E.

[DevelopingPictures]. (2012, March 25). Sponsor a Child: Little Footprints Big Steps. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjzncB3HsmA.

[James Pierre]. (2016, April 5). Morgan Wienberg goes one-on-one with James Pierre. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1VMeKKTxkM.

[Morgan Wienberg]. (2014, June 3). Congratulations, FH Grad 2014!. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNQ7PB95aYA.

[Ryan Sheetz]. (2015, February 20). Little Footprints Big Steps. Retrieved fromhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9fdPx1srGI.

Bailey, G. (2013, December 31). Catch Yukoner Morgan Wienberg tomorrow on CBC’s Gracious Gifts. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/airplay/features/2013/12/31/catch-yukoner-morgan-wienberg-tomorrow-on-cbcs-gracious-gifts/.

Baker, R. (2016, March 4). PHOTOS Governor General recognizes exceptional Canadians in Vancouver. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/governor-general-recognizes-exceptional-canadians-in-vancouver-1.3476960.

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ca Staff. (2016, February 8). 23-year-old awarded Meritorious Service Cross for work in Haiti. Retrieved from http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/23-year-old-awarded-meritorious-service-cross-for-work-in-haiti-1.2769013.

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Gjerstad, S. (2014, April 8). Morgan (22) vier livet sitt til å gjenforene barn med foreldrene sine på Haiti. Retrieved from http://www.tv2.no/a/5852686/.

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Wienberg, M. (2013, November 22). Age Is Not an Obstacle in Changing the World. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/morgan-wienberg/age-is-not-an-obstacle_b_4324563.html.

Wienberg, M. (2014, January 23). Courage of a Mother. Retrieved from http://whatsupyukon.com/Lifestyle/making-a-difference/courage-of-a-mother/#sthash.hy1QzF0S.ZA1StSZz.dpbs.

Woodcock, R. (2013, September 26). Back to School in Haiti. Retrieved from http://whatsupyukon.com/Lifestyle/making-a-difference/back-to-school-in-haiti/#sthash.TMqQNkLX.dpbs.

Yukon News. (2013, February 6). Incredible acts of kindness in Haiti. Retrieved from http://yukon-news.com/letters-opinions/incredible-acts-of-kindness-in-haiti.

Appendix I: Photographs

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Appendix II: Footnotes

 

[1] Co-Founder, Coordinator, and Head of Haiti Operations, Little Footprints Big Steps International Development Organization.

[2] Individual Publication Date: September 15, 2017 at www.in-sightjournal.com/morgan-wienberg-part-three; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2018 at www.in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues.

[3] Meritorious Service Cross (M.S.C.), Government of Canada; Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal; Governor General of Canada Academic Awards; Yukon Commissioner Award; Finalist, Young Women Impacting Social Justice, The Berger-Marks Foundation; Rotary International Paul Harris Fellowship Award for Humanitarian Impact, Rotary International; Keynote Speaker (2013), United Nations Youth Assembly; Finalist (2012), Edna Award, International Women’s Rights.

[4] Photograph courtesy of Morgan Wienberg.

[5] Co-Founder/Head of Haiti Operations: MORGAN WIENBERG, M.S.C. (2016) states:

Raised in Canada’s far northern city of Whitehorse, Yukon, throughout her youth, Morgan volunteered with non-profit organizations and developed an all-consuming interest in human rights. In 2010, six months after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, this high school valedictorian traded her snow boots for sandals and set off for the devastated country. What was meant to be a short trip changed her life – and countless others – forever.

Morgan volunteered in an orphanage and found the conditions to be appalling. She witnessed children that were neglected, beaten, and starved. In some cases, children were used as slaves or sold, as if they were property. Although it was sorely needed, the children were denied medical attention. Morgan discovered that children had been sent to the orphanage by their parents in the mistaken belief that their children would be offered food, education, and loving care. Morgan began to work towards reuniting children with their families.

In 2011, Morgan co-founded Little Footprints, Big Steps (LFBS). Morgan continues to live in Haiti, leading the organization with integrity, creativity and perseverance. Forging partnerships and collaborations with other non-profits and with Haitian government; spearheading initiatives and piloting programs; hiring and guiding Haitian staff; managing the program administration; tirelessly pouring love and encouragement into all of the children and families that come her way.

Little Footprints, Big Steps. (2016). Co-Founder/Head of Haiti Operations: MORGAN WIENBERG, M.S.C.. Retrieved from http://www.littlefootprintsbigsteps.com/about-us/meet-mogan/.

[6] CTVNews.ca. (n.d.). 23-year-old receives Meritorious Service Cross Medal. Retrieved from http://canadaam.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=804018&playlistId=1.2769055&binId=1.815911&playlistPageNum=1&binPageNum=1.

[7] Ibid.

Appendix III: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Morgan Wienberg, M.S.C. (Part Three) [Online].September 2017; 15(A). Available from: www.in-sightjournal.com/morgan-wienberg-part-three.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2017, September 15). An Interview with Morgan Wienberg, M.S.C. (Part Three)Retrieved from www.in-sightjournal.com/morgan-wienberg-part-three.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Morgan Wienberg, M.S.C. (Part Three). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 15.A, September. 2017. <www.in-sightjournal.com/morgan-wienberg-part-three>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2017. “An Interview with Morgan Wienberg, M.S.C. (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 15.A. www.in-sightjournal.com/morgan-wienberg-part-three.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Morgan Wienberg, M.S.C. (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 15.A (September 2017). www.in-sightjournal.com/morgan-wienberg-part-three.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2017, ‘An Interview with Morgan Wienberg, M.S.C. (Part Three)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 15.A. Available from: <www.in-sightjournal.com/morgan-wienberg-part-three>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2017, ‘An Interview with Morgan Wienberg, M.S.C. (Part Three)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 15.A., www.in-sightjournal.com/morgan-wienberg-part-three.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Morgan Wienberg, M.S.C. (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 15.A (2017):September. 2017. Web. <www.in-sightjournal.com/morgan-wienberg-part-three>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Morgan Wienberg, M.S.C. (Part Three)[Internet]. (2017, September; 15(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/morgan-wienberg-part-two.

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