Joseph, founder of the non-profit Catwalk for
Charity, with students from Ecole Nouvelle Zoranje
in Port-au-Prince in July, 2018. Her charity has
an annual fashion show in Miami to raise money for
various organizations in Haiti, including PRODEV,
which is an education nonprofit that created the
Joseph began with a simple mission — to uplift Haitian
children in Miami during the holiday season.
billed her event as Breakfast with Santa, where hundreds
of kids from Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood enjoyed
a hearty breakfast at a local Marriott hotel, and hang
out with Santa Claus.
five years of email blasts and putting up fliers trying
to get Haitians to donate toys for poor kids, Joseph
decided she needed another strategy to attract
to a point where we would just go and buy toys for each
of them,” said Joseph, now an event planner who lives
in Boca Raton. “Like $7-$10 per toy.”
day in 2011, as she and her friends brainstormed ideas
on how to raise funds, Joseph thought: How about holding
an annual fashion show? It was a perfect fit with
Miami’s runway-inspired scene, said Jean-Raymond
Alexandre, a friend.
if it’s for charity, people in Miami want to dress
up,” Alexandre said.
for Charity was soon born. Joseph, who had been thinking
about the children in her Haitian homeland, which the
year before had been struck by a tragic earthquake, also
changed the focus.
instead of using the fashion-inspired fundraiser to
benefit children in Miami, she decided that children in
Haiti needed it more.
past seven years, the star-studded event featuring
celebrity hosts, top designers and high-end department
stores like Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, has
raised over $200,000 to benefit thousands of Haitian
week in December, she and her team of Catwalk for
Charity volunteers travel to Port-au-Prince, rent buses,
and invite hundreds of children to the Marriott for a
huge breakfast, toy giveaway and of course, a meeting
matters to me is helping kids,” said Joseph.
“Nothing else matters.”
children are selected by schools and hospitals and come
from underprivileged communities like Cité Soleil, the
eight-square-mile slum in Haiti with no sewage system
and barely any power.
come from orphanages around the Haitian capital. The
team also provide toys to sick children at the State
University of Haiti, also known as the General Hospital,
and some 800 children at Special Olympics Haiti, which
trains children and adults with different intellectual
or physical disabilities.
she traveled more and more to Haiti, she saw that the
children needed something more substantial: They needed
a better education.
a common friend introduced Joseph to Maryse Pénette-Kedar,
the board president of PRODEV, an educational nonprofit.
Founded in 1995 by Pénette-Kedar’s husband Daniel
Kedar, and late father, Max Pénette, a professor and
former mayor of Pétion-Ville . PRODEV began as a small
family foundation that sent children to school who
otherwise couldn’t afford it.
earthquake, Pénette-Kedar took the foundation to
another level She built its first school, Ecole Nouvelle
Zoranje, in Port-au-Prince and launched a training
program for teachers throughout the country.
believe that this (education) is one of the biggest
problems in Haiti,” Pénette-Kedar the said.
“We’ve created a model of what quality education can
Joseph instantly hit it off when they met.
obsessed with PRODEV,” Joseph said. “To me, it is a
hidden gem in Haiti. If we had 10 PRODEVs, wow, it would
make such a difference.”
addition to training teachers, PRODEV tries to provide
students with a top-tier education in a country where
only 61 percent of the population is literate, compared
with 92 percent in other developing Latin American and
Caribbean nations, according to the CIA’s World
students are encouraged to communicate their feelings to
staff and no corporal punishment is allowed — which is
unusual in Haiti, where teachers are allowed to