April 26, 2014
Four Years Later…

Now more than four years after the earthquake in Haiti we hear the same question echoing through the conversations, the meetings, the social gatherings where Jim and I meet with colleagues and friends. They ask, “But how can we help Haiti? The issues are too thorny; the government is weak…”

It’s a question that haunts me. But after four years of listening and learning, and supporting grassroots leaders, I have become convinced of the impact made by supporting Haiti’s small town mayors and community councils. We can support her peasants, teachers, women, journalists, lawyers, clergy, artists, door-to-door health workers. It is these leaders who have formed vibrant organizations to meet the basic needs of their communities. Whether uniting in small-scale farmer coops, fixing roads, creating schools, forging human rights networks, spreading the word through radio, print and pulpit, painting hope, or teaching health and hygiene in the home – these leaders have helped Haitians survive for decades – despite a broken and at times brutal government.

In the wake of the horrible earthquake of 2010, Haiti’s deep structural fissures and enduring agony have been exposed around the globe. NGOs valiantly kept over a million people alive. Yet reconstruction, permanent shelter, real job creation, and institution building remain enormous challenges. Much of the $5.1 billion pledged by foreign governments for the reconstruction of Haiti has been bottlenecked in international bureaucracy or ill-conceived programs. Here’s what Haiti needs now:

  • Partnership — with already existing organizations of everyday Haitians who know what their neighborhoods need, and will work tirelessly to improve them with a little support.
  • Training — academic, vocational and professional – for 50% of the population long deprived of schooling, and a massive generation of youth and young adults longing to develop the skills to build businesses and coops, hospitals and innovative schools, roads and legal systems.
  • Capacity building – investment in government workers at federal and municipal levels – to direct the establishment of institutions that will protect the human rights of all Haitians, spur decentralized development in all regions, and enable both rural and urban Haitians to flourish.

For suggestions on how to support the people of Haiti see The Haiti Fund at the Boston Foundation and Partners in Health/Haiti.

For the foreseeable future most grants from the Ansara Family Fund will be directed towards Haiti, to capitalize on Jim Ansara’s on-the-ground presence building healthcare infrastructure for the poor, and Karen’s eye-witness role on the Advisory Council of the Haiti Fund at the Boston Foundation.