UM Couple Travels to Haiti to Gather News and Make Lasting Connections



Story by Alessandra Villaamil


WLRN/Miami Herald reporter Flora Thomson-DeVeaux sat in on KozeAyiti's weekly meeting to interview Tod and Yanick Landess who traveled to Haiti for a six-day trip this week. The couple will be gathering content and sending it back to the KozeAyiti team daily to be uploaded on KozeAyti's Facebook page. The Landess' stories will focus on life in Port-au-Prince and in the countryside after the earthquake.
Since January, Tod Landess and the KozeAyiti team have developed relationships with non-profit organizations, journalists, and radio stations in South Florida and on the ground in Haiti. The goal is to enable Haitian journalists to report news in Haiti as well as the international community. This trip will be Tod Landess' first time in Haiti. With the support of the Knight Center for International Media and University of Miami School of Communication, Tod Landess will have dinner with his father-in-law for the first time, and continue his mission to promote and strengthen KozeAyiti.

"We have our initiative and we're focused on the area in which KozeAyiti can contribute and make an impact. If we focus on communication and use our time to build a media consortium, to promote the website and to gather content, with those three goals I think the trip will be very fruitful," Tod Landess said. The couple had always planned a visit to Haiti. The earthquake turned their vacation into something greater.
Yanick Landess grew up in Haiti, and has lived in South Florida for the past ten years. She works closely with UNICEF-HAITI, FAO-HAITI, CECOSIDA, and a number of other organizations.
Yanick Landess realizes that Haiti is now a different country. "My fear is that since Haitians have been burnt so many times, especially with false promises, they don't know who to trust. During the first few days we will try our best to build relationships and show that we kept our promises so far, giving them a platform to voice their opinions. We are hopeful, but we have to be realistic."
Radio station WLRN had already taken an interest in Little Haiti when reporter Trina Sargalski created a story map of the community for "Under the Sun." Thomson-DeVeaux learned of KozeAyti through Sargalski and interviewed Tod and Yanick Landess about their trip to Haiti, as well as Moses Shumow, co-founder of KozeAyti, and other team members. "It's a little nebulous the line between activism and journalism, and it's really interesting to see them walk that," Thomson-DeVeaux said.