Odette Roy Fombrun was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on 13 June 1917. She graduated from Haiti’s prestigious Ecole Normale d’Institutrices in 1935 and subsequently completed a course at the Nursery Training School in Boston in 1945. When she returned to Haiti in 1946, she opened Haiti’s first kindergarden. During an extended stay in Cuba with her husband (1950-1954), she studied floral arts and returned to Port-au-Prince in 1954 to open Haiti’s first flower shop: Tabou Fleurs & Parfums.
In 1955, Odette returned to the field of education and authored her first school book “Morale et Instruction Civique”. Over the next thirty years, she solidified her commitment to education by writing numerous books on Haitian history and geography, developing a method for children to learn to read and write, various books of Haitian folktales, and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles commenting on the issues of the day.
Between 1959 and 1984, Mrs. Fombrun spent her time in the United States and in Africa, traveling extensively with her husband on behalf of UNICEF. At the end of the Duvalier regime in 1986, she returned to Haiti to take up the cause of democratic reform. At a conference in Washington D.C. in September 1986, she made a presentation that asked: “Is Democracy Possible in Haiti?” Many of her ideas and recommendations were subsequently incorporated into Haiti’s Constitution 1987.
In March 1986, Mrs. Fombrun published her treatise on ‘Konbitism’ – a political manifesto based on Haiti’s indigenous custom of ‘shared activity and collaboration’, akin to the long-standing kibbutz tradition of Israel in farming and construction. In her book ‘Solutions pour Haiti, Konbit Solidarité Nationale’, she writes about the need for a national plan to address poverty through wealth creation.
A Citizen of the World since 1981, Mrs. Fombrun vigorously defends human rights and argues forcefully against overt aggression, trade embargos, and blatant dominance by 1st world economies. In 1987, she is invited to participate in drafting Haiti’s Constitution, and in 1994 agrees to sit on the National Mediating Committee. From 1990 to 1992, she presides over ‘Fondation 91’ and leads the cultural section of ‘Fondation 92’, two organizations created to help prepare Haiti to celebrate its 500 year anniversary of the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492. From 1996 to 2000, she heads up the Business & Professional Women’s Club in Port-au-Prince. Throughout, she is also a member of the Women’s League for Social Action, and in 2001 participates in the UNDP’s Report on Human Development.
Mrs. Fombrun is currently an author and editor at the Editions Henri Deschamps in Haiti. In 2007, on her 90th birthday, she transformed the FERF (an educational fund she had created to support educational initiatives in 1997) into the FORF – the Foundation Odette Roy Fombrun. Today, the FORF is a charitable organization whose mission is to raise funds to support education and development in Haiti. It is based on the belief that, in order to be sustainable, both education and development have to emerge from a ‘konbite’ that brings together Haiti’s youth, with its citizenry, and its diaspora. Most recently, she has become a fierce advocate for her concept of a Konbit Touris Lakay, a form of responsible tourism that is designed to stimulate nation-building by fostering local participation in projects that are designed to create economic value while protecting the environment.