(Photography by Lauren Neal)
It was the summer of 2011 when I found myself in a line to get food with several Haitian and American missionaries. As we waited in that long line that seemed to extend forever, I leaned in and listened to a new Haitian friend describe his childhood growing up: being forced to be a child slave on a sugar cane field at the border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. From that moment on, my life was changed by the opening of my eyes to the reality surrounding labor practices in other countries.
One of the people in that line with me (and one of our other Konbit Collective founders) was Dani Tamplen-Troyer. Dani was a boisterous presence on this missions campus, frequently talking about her Texan blue skies and her mastery of Haitian Creole. She was outspoken about the injustices she witnessed and believed that fighting injustice was holy work. As she met and fell in love with her husband, Kyle, under that Caribbean sun, her heart gave birth to visions and dreams for people in this land.
Dani loved fiercely. You knew where you stood with her and she desired to know people deeply. She wanted to know each person at their core and took time to understand them. She did not shy away from hard conversations and did not let mean people and discouragement take her away from her faith, her call, her passions, her country (Haiti).
After a stint back in the USA, Dani and her husband Kyle, moved back to Haiti. This time, they were working to provide housing and jobs for people in Haiti. With their new son in tow, Dani's passions all melted together: she wanted to provide Haitian moms jobs while creating beautiful products for them to create. She co-founded Petite Palm out of Port-Au-Prince and helped provide gainful and meaningful employment to several Haitian mothers.
A mother of two herself, she knew how important it was to have meaningful work. She knew the importance a job provided. She knew it kept Haitian kids out of orphanages and trafficking situations like the one described above. She knew it was hard to live in that space of being an American in Haiti and trying to make a difference, but she dug in and stood firm.
Dani did not just impact her town in Texas, or her husband's town in Ohio. She did not just impact the city of Port-Au-Prince where she lived for the last several years of her life. She impacted so much more. Her legacy reaches to our Konbit community in Haiti, as she was a friend to the founders, the leadership, and many of our volunteers. She made a point to encourage and help us brand our own social enterprise. She was not shy about her encouragement or desire for collaboration. One of the last conversations I had with Dani was talking about our social enterprises and the impact we saw on the ground.
Dani was in it, there's no way around it. She was a devoted mother and wife. She was a hardworking social entrepreneur and creative. She was an empathetic woman who helped those around her feel more and do more with those feelings.
When Dani unexpectedly took her final breaths, it was also under those Caribbean blue skies. It was in the place she'd dedicated her whole life to help. It was the place she'd leaned in, learned, and cultivated meaningful change. It was in this place that she passed, leaving a huge hole in the lives of those who knew her.
We at the Konbit Collective were also impacted deeply by her death. It was through her untimely passing that we were motivated to do what we'd talked so much about: creating a space for fair-trade goods to be sold. Her legacy lives on in this collective; there have been so many times where we've stopped and seen her impact on the pages of the website itself.
We wanted to do more to keep her memory alive. So, we came up with The Well Fund. This fund is a specific and special fund that is dedicated to helping young mothers with Konbit Haiti. The use of these funds goes toward the purchase of materials for mothers: diapers, formula, etc.; trainings for young mothers; hospital bills...and more. While each purchase with the Konbit Collective goes back into the community, your purchase of any and all Petite Palm items goes directly into this fund.
Dani, we love you. You made such an impact on the world around you. You are deeply and dearly missed.