|A FOKAL network library; Aux Trois Dumas|
The whole adventure started when a great reader wanted to transmit his passion for books. His name is Bernard Chignard. When he came from France, his native land, to Haiti in 1970, he already had over a thousand books in his personal library. At the time he was working for Air-France and had to travel a lot. After retiring 16 years ago, he decided to spend his last years in Haiti. In 2007, he moved permanently to Jacmel, a small town on the south coast of Haiti. Since M. Chignard thinks culture and knowledge have to be shared, he decided to make his book collection available to everyone in Jacmel. With his own money and the help of French friends, he opened the Aux Trois Dumas (The three Dumas) Library on October 9, 2009. The name was in honor of General Dumas and descendants (famed writer Alexandre Dumas author of The Three Musketeers and the Count of Monte Cristo), but mainly to remind people that Dumas was born in Haiti (at the time St-Domingue colony) in 1762, in the city of Jérémie.
«We all know, since the January 12, 2010 earthquake, our lives, those of our institutions and businesses are told in two episodes, before and after. It took us two years to set up everything. We had a great opening (in 2009) and three months later, all was destroyed and had to be redone» said M. Chignard. «And then what? We had to pick ourselves up. The house was a total loss and the most urgent need was to save the books and put them in a safe place. Bit by bit, with courage and determination and love, most of the collection was saved and stored with friends.
Up till then, M. Chignard kept the library going with his own money. He quickly realised that he needed allies to rebuild. He could find no money with his friends so he turned to the «Fondation Voie Lactée» an organisation lead by the actress Carline Collagène, who accepted to lead the reconstruction of the library. They then started the reconstruction with funding from «Fondation de France» and «Fil Culture». «Nearly two years later, on October 9, 2011, the library doors opened again» said M,Chegnard.
Other help also came, notably from «l’Association des Trois Dumas» from Villers-Cotterêts in l’Aisne in France, some individuals and «Bibliothèques sans Frontières» made it possible to set up a kids’ corner. They also became a member of the FOKAL library network, in January 2012. Like all other libraries of its network, FOKAL brings financial and technical help through its workshops for the staff and book donations.
A beautiful cultural centre
Today the Aux Trois Dumas library has become a beautiful place. The main floor is concrete while the second floor is made of wood with a French chalet style. The idea of a wood structure came when all noticed how resistant the Gingerbread homes were during the earthquake. Hundreds of young people from Jacmel make use of this place. They escape into a novel, prepare schoolwork or just borrow a book from the library if they prefer. The library also has a vibrant and dynamic cultural centre that is growing and proposes different activities to members and the public in general. The centre has an auditorium and theatre, a living space for artists invited to Jacmel and soon an Internet connection for members for as little as 10 gourdes (.25 cents) an hour.