On January 12, 2010 everything changed — for the people of Haiti — and for the Ansara family. Jim lept into the disaster, getting electricity flowing in hospital operating tents, inspecting buildings, and carrying stretchers. Karen, and Kate Guedj of The Boston Foundation, sprang into action to raise funds for the newly-established The Haiti Fund. A five-year fund guided by leaders from the Haitian diaspora community, the Haiti Fund makes grants primarily to help Haitians rebuild Haiti. In addition, the fund supports organizations serving Haitians in the greater Boston area.
For nearly four years Jim Ansara has devoted himself to building Haiti’s new teaching hospital in Mirebalais. His experience led him to establish in 2013 a private operating foundation, Build Health International, to continue building hospitals and clinics in Haiti and other developing countries.
Karen continues to inspire others to give generously to solve problems at home and around the world. She works through New England International Donors, the Opportunity Collaboration, Oxfam America, MCE Social Capital, Partners in Health, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, Essex County Community Foundation, Harbor Light Community Partners, and other local organizations.
To hear Jim talking about our experience in 2010 please click here
To hear David Walton of Partners in Health talk about the Mirebalais Hospital project please click here
Jim Ansara and Karen Keating Ansara, who met during college, have always shared a desire to make the world a more equitable place, but pursued different paths until beginning organized philanthropy together in 1999.
Jim’s family taught him to view the world through a lens of social justice while Karen’s taught her the importance of service to family, community and country. After college Jim worked as a carpenter and soon thereafter he founded Shawmut Design and Construction, which grew into one of the top 25 construction companies in the country — one known for its culture of community service. Karen worked for social justice organizations, principally Planned Parenthood, and then pursued a Masters in Divinity degree to study social ethics and ministry.
Jim’s 30 years as a general contractor imbued him with a passion for what he calls “boots-on-the-ground” philanthropy – giving to and actively participating in programs that make a specific difference in the lives of poor and underprivileged people. Karen’s professional and volunteer work has helped her appreciate the challenges of building lasting, effective organizations and meaningful partnerships between them and their supporters. Jim’s and Karen’s experiences have taught them that social change takes more than an inspirational leader or entrepreneur: it takes a well-trained, organized, equipped, and steadfast team with the dedication to sustain their work over the long haul. The commitment and sacrifice of the organizational staff they meet humbles and inspires them.
In the early 80’s Karen and Jim began building their family through adoption. Raising five children, three of them adopted internationally, opened their eyes to how the conditions of poverty stunt children’s physical, intellectual, social and emotional development and lead desperate parents to be willing to give up their children. When Jim sold his company to its employees in 2005, he and Karen used the proceeds to establish the Ansara Family Fund, with the mission to help eradicate global poverty so that no parent would feel compelled to give up a beloved child.
In funding organizations that work to end poverty and its symptoms, the Ansaras hope to live out the passage they read at their wedding more than 25 years ago: “For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat…” (Matthew 25:35) Jim and Karen are very grateful for the privilege to be able to work for and support positive change and social equity, and in doing so to honor their respective families’ traditions.