Irish entrepreneurs explore caves in Port a Piment, Haiti.
November 18th, 2008
In June 2008, 24 finalists in the 2008 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards programme made the long journey from Ireland to Haiti for a crash course in Corporate Social Responsibility. The aim was to create employment opportunities and sustainable business projects to generate income for the community. Approximately 66% of Haiti’s population live below the poverty threshold and the unemployment rate is around 60%.
The entrepreneurs split into teams to focus on a range of projects. Port a Piment was identified as a region with significant potential. It boasts many assets such as lush forest, a natural harbour, cocoa plants and mangoes growing in abundance. However, the most exciting feature of the area was the beautiful Grotte Marie-Jeanne caves.
This motivated a group of 6 entrepreneurs to explore the potential of the caves. The team included: Terence Brannigan (Resource), Danny Moore (NYSE Euronext), Xavier McAuliffe (Spectra Group), Tom Cafferkey (LotusWorks), Nick Redmond (Ernst & Young) and Patricia O’Hagan (Core Systems).
Situated in Port a Piment on the south coast of Haiti, the Grotte Marie-Jeanne Caves were explored for the first time in 2007 by speleologists from the Hoffman Environmental Research Institute. However the survey was limited as they lacked the equipment required to explore the caves in detail. As a result, there is still much unexplored territory within these caves. The actual size of the cave structure is still unknown - it is potentially the biggest cave system in the Caribbean.
In Port a Piment the entrepreneurs met with key figures in the community including the local priest from Notre-Dame de St. Rosaire church, the Mayor Fritz Gattreau and his team of advisors. The meeting provided insight into the aspirations of the local community who aim to promote the caves as a site of significant scientific interest to attract visitors to the region.
This was a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to apply their skills and experience to help promote the caves. Some members of the team are from the IT industry with experience in web site development. This led to the creation of a website to promote the caves as a speleological attraction. Patricia O’Hagan of Core Systems said, “We are excited about the website and the publicity it will bring the caves. This is the first step towards putting Grotte Marie-Jeanne on the map and attracting new visitors to the region. We hope this will positively impact the economy by creating jobs and generating revenue for the area.”