A year and a half ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to go to Haiti as part of a program to view Macy’s Heart of Haiti products and meet the artisans behind the beautiful art. It was an incredible trip in many ways as it opened my heart and mind to a different side of Haiti that is often not discussed in the press. Instead of seeing tragedy, hardship and destruction I saw amazing resilience, hope and creativity through the arts.
It was with a heavy heart that I followed the news of yet another tragedy in Haiti, the destruction and death from Hurricane Matthew. Hundreds more have died, thousands have lost their homes and their livelihoods once again, and the devastation left behind is just another setback in a country that seems to constantly take one step forward two steps back.
As the US and others rush in with aid to help Haiti, it is often asked how one can best help Haiti. Although humanitarian aid is absolutely necessary, tragically a lot of good intentions behind aid aren’t always fulfilled. Selecting the right kind of organization to donate to is even more important than ever.
American journalist Jonathan Katz’ powerful, eye-opening book “The Big Truck that Went By” documents the enormous missed opportunity of governments and aid groups to help truly rebuild Haiti after the earthquake.
Despite the billions of dollars sent in aid money, Katz pointedly argues that Haiti is no better off than it was before the quake that killed over an estimated 220,000 people. Much of the promised aid money was never delivered, while Haitians scrambled to rebuild, create jobs, and repair the horrendous lack of infrastructure that lead to such devastation in the first place. Over five years later, running water and electricity remains a luxury to the lucky few. Haitians continue to leave the countryside and come to overcrowded Port-au-Prince to live in one of the many growing slums. Tent communities, although reduced in numbers, still exist. Medical care and treatment remain overwhelmed. And deforestation that makes the rains sweep away cities during the rainy season, destroying thousands of homes and killing people in its path, continues.
So now after yet another devastating natural disaster, the world has a chance to step in and help out but what are the best ways to proceed? That is the question many international development experts and governmental officials are wondering.
It is obvious that long-term sustainable change is needed in Haiti. However, there are also immediate needs that must be met. My dear friend and fellow blogger, Leticia Barr of Tech Savvy Mama, who has been going to Haiti with Heart of Haiti for over five years wrote a fabulous post on how you can help provide relief for Haiti. Here are some excerpts from her post. To read it in full, click here.
How you can help provide Hurricane Matthew Relief for Haiti – by Leticia Barr
On October 20, I’ll make my 5th trip to Haiti and as always, I’m going to help. But this time I need your help more than ever. Haiti needs our help.
So many of you have reached out to ask what you can do and how you can help with monetary donations and supplies and if I’ve learned anything over the past five years it’s about how to help where help is most effective and how important it is to support organizations that work to affect change and get results.
Here are my recommendations based on my experience in the country, getting to know people on the ground, and seeing the kinds of sustainable programs that organizations have put in place.
A SHORT LIST OF WHO TO TRUST IF YOU WANT TO DONATE TO HAITI:
After the 2010 earthquake organizations with a long history of being in Haiti providing assistance through programs were competing with a lot of new organizations that were set up to accept charitable donations. Unfortunately, some of these organizations misspent funds and dollars that you donated didn’t actually provide the aid you hoped it would. Lots of news articles were written about this. It makes me sick to my stomach knowing that this happens.
Here are some trusted organizations whose work that I’ve seen and have been on the ground helping Haitians through sustainable programs that provide steady income, job training, and quality medical care as well as the immediate needs caused by destruction of crops:
Food for the Poor is an organization that friends on the ground in Haiti say are doing phenomenal work. With the bridge to Jeremie and Grand Anse destroyed (the parts of Haiti most affected by Hurricane Matthew) and so many crops destroyed, it is expected that there will be a food shortage in the country for the next 3 months. They pre-placed supplies in the affected regions, rented helicopters to meet with members in communities to understand immediate needs, and are distributing juice, water rice, milk, spaghetti, and other items. Today they delivered nine 40 foot containers by barge from their Haiti warehouse to Jeremie (along with a forklift and truck), one of the hardest hit areas in Haiti. Donate directly to Haiti and know that more than 95% of all donations will help Haitians avoid starvation now and in the coming months. Donate to Food for the Poor’s efforts in Haiti here.
JP/HRO is amazing because they worked to rebuild communities and provide proper infrastructure as they relocated families as they transitioned from camp life to safe communities. During my first trip to Haiti I visited the tent camp that occupied a once-tony golf course in the affluent Petion-ville neighborhood of Port au Prince. I believe it was three years after my first visit that JP/HRO had relocated those living in tents into communities where they had rebuilt homes (this time reinforced with rebar according to new building standards that would be better able to withstand an natural disaster), built schools, opened hospitals, and were working directly with Haitians to teach them how to build and maintain their new communities. Donate to JP/HRO here.
Heifer International’s Heifer Haiti works to provide animals and train farmers in animal husbandry. They work with 30,000 farming families in Haiti to improve farm productivity, restore local environments and increase economic opportunities for farmers. Heifer Haiti secured animals in structures before Hurricane Matthew but the New York Times reported that the shelters couldn’t withstand the force of the winds. Donate to Heifer Haiti here.
Partners in Health is known locally as Zanmi Lasante and operates clinics and hospitals at 12 sites across the Central Plateau and the lower Artibonite, two of the country’s poorest regions. Since the January 2010 earthquake, 744,000 people across Haiti have become sick from cholera and nearly 9,000 have died. In response, Partners in Health built and staffed treatment centers and launched a large-scale community health intervention so that 20,000 patients received treatment for cholera. It’s an amazing effort that involves a partnership between the Haitian government and a nongovernmental organization to bring much needed healthcare to Haiti. Donate to Partners in Health here.
Save the Children has been in Haiti for over 30 years. This global organization works to advocate for more schools and provides healthcare to mothers and children. Since the hurricane they have deployed their Emergency Health Unit to stockpile non-food items including hygiene kits, baby items, household kits, mosquito nets and jerry cans that are currently being distributed. Donate directly to the Save the Children Hurricane Matthew Children’s Relief Fund.
With a mission to develop, manage and support schools and centers in underserved communities, ProDev is an organization I support with all my heart. Perhaps it’s the former teacher in me who will always be passionate about kids and education but I applaud them for their efforts for the simple reason that they believe that only education can create a stronger Haiti. Donate to ProDev here.
HOW TO SUPPORT OUR ARTISTS – Shop Trade Not Aid
I work directly with artists affiliated with the Artisan Business Network, a collective of artists who create products that are sold through U.S. stores and online retailers. This is the time of the year that artists are working to complete orders for products that will appear in-store for the holidays but Hurricane Matthew destroyed holiday inventory as it swept away belongings and food. With no products to deliver, our artists can’t earn the money they were counting on for food, living expenses, and their children’s education.
Our Haitian artists are proud of their work and when their items are bought, it means more orders are placed for additional inventory. Here are some of the places where you can purchase items created by the artists I know and love:
- Macy’s Heart of Haiti
- Haiti Projects (you can also donate directly to Haiti Projects whose embroidery artists live on the southern coast of Haiti that has been hardest hit by Hurricane Matthew)
- Global Goods Partners
- Tribe Alive
Leticia is preparing for another trip to Haiti in less than two weeks, and I have promised I’d share updates on what she sees on the ground. If you know of any other good humanitarian organizations working in Haiti, please let me know.
Haitian proverb: “Dèyè mòn gen mòn” which means “beyond the mountains, more mountains.”