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Meet Lu Louis of Project Elev8 in Hollywood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lu Louis.

Lu, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’m originally from Port-au-Prince, HAITI. I was born in Miami, FL but grew up on the island of Hispaniola. After I turned 18 and graduated high school, I moved to San Diego, CA and attended the University of San Diego. And once I graduated from there with a B.A. in Theatre Arts for Acting, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the Entertainment Industry. And it’s in LA that I would meet the founding members of my non-profit, Project Elev8.

In 2014, I took a trip back home to Haiti with my dear friend Katie Walter, and while we were there, she asked me about how I would like to help Haiti. I shared with her my philosophy about my country that I got from my Dad: “The best way to help Haiti is through education. And the best people to educate, are the youth.” I shared with Katie a few specific project ideas I had, and one of them was a plan to renovate the bathrooms at the Haitian school my family owned. See, the restrooms at the school were done in the style of an outhouse, with “long-drop” toilets. I always hated them and felt that they were far too primitive for the needs of the students.

Fast forward to a few months later, back in LA, one of my other dear friends Jonathan Kowalsky asked me questions about our Haiti trip and the school we had in Haiti, as well as the work we were doing there. He had recently been approached by a friend to head down to Haiti to do charity work down there and help build schools. But once Jonny found out my family already had a school in Haiti, he and my fellow actor friends from our acting class, Scene Technique, suggested that instead of joining someone else’s trip to Haiti, we organize one of our own. Especially since both Richardson Chery, another actor in our group, and I were both from Haiti. Richardson jumped at the opportunity to give back, as did our other Haitian actor friend, Sharon Pierre-Louis. Another person in our friend group, Rebecca Cristancho, also had ties to Haiti because her mother had gone there in her youth and had loved the experience. So, Rebecca decided she would go as well. And rounding out the group were Jonny’s fiancée, Michelle Ghaltchi and our actor friend Christian Edsall. With our final member, Alicia Sanchez, joining the group later on.

We now had a team of eight willing contributors and all that was missing was a team name and a specific project to get behind. We decided to tackle the wretched restrooms at my Mom’s school down in Haiti. And when I mentioned that my desire was to elevate the Haitian standard well above where it was currently, the name Project Elev8 came about. And with that, our non-profit was born.

We spent the remainder of 2015 and the first half of 2016 rigorously fund-raising money to renovate the bathrooms. And once we achieved our goal of approximately $30,000, the eight of us took the trip to Haiti and teamed up with Haitian architect Jean-Marc Tribie. And together, we were able to give the school a much deserved upgrade.

Since that amazing trip, we’ve continued to raise money for both academic and financial scholarships for the students of the school in Haiti, Nouveau College Concordia. Our work in Haiti is ongoing, as is our investments in the students as well as the entire country.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
One of the major challenges to running a non-profit is fundraising. There are SO MANY non-profits that at times it can be difficult to stand out amongst the herd. In my experience, people want to help. It’s just a matter of being able to reach them with your story and help them understand the importance of your cause.

Also, we are all part of Project Elev8 because we want to help. But running a non-profit and trying to survive out in Los Angeles is very difficult. Project Elev8 is very grass roots and everything we raise goes directly to helping out the kids at the school. Running a non-profit is a full-time job that I do for free, and it can feel like an impossible task when I’m juggling my career and other financial responsibilities.

Please tell us about the organization.
Project Elev8’s main goal is to elevate the Haitian standard far beyond the level it is at now. Growing up in Haiti, I constantly heard the phrase, “Well, that’s good enough for Haiti.” As if when it comes to Haiti, we should lower our standards and be satisfied with whatever we get. But living in America as an adult, I came to realize the importance of knowing one’s worth and always demanding more. As humans, we are all entitled to the same standards of living. And just because Haiti is currently a 3rd World Country, doesn’t mean it has to stay one forever. We, as an organization, raise charitable funds through micro-fundraising events and support from our community of friends.

As a company, I’m most proud of our continued commitment to the students at Nouveau College Concordia. We are determined to elevate every facet of that school so that the students can get a quality education with all the same advantages as the students in America. The first major improvements we made were to the outdated restrooms. Next, we aim to raise money for scholarships, both academic and financial, as well as for solar panels to help the school develop sustainable electricity. Which is not currently available to them and would greatly improve so many facets of the day to day functionality.

What sets us apart from other companies is our personal connection to both the school and the country of Haiti. Three of the members are Haitian-American. And the other five members who took our inaugural trip to Haiti, are now Honorary Haitians.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I think that patience is the quality that is most important to our success. Haiti didn’t develop its current problems overnight, so they are not going to be solved overnight either. So, we’ll be patient with our expectations but we will also be persistent. Because patience without persistence is just complacency.

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