Nurturing a Long-Term Commitment to Haiti
By Hudes Desrameaux 14 Jun 2007
We are condemned in the Diaspora to make Haiti better for the less fortunate and all those staying behind — for whatever reasons. There is almost a consensual agreement to this proposition.
What's open to discussion is how each of us can marshal our human and financial resources to ensure that Haiti becomes a less desperate country for its poor citizens and a more habitable place for all.
Millions in North America, Europe and other regions are sending more that a $1billion a year to their families in Haiti, which constitutes a life-support to a moribund Haitian economy. This huge remittance allows tens of thousands of children to attend school, puts food on the table of millions, pays the medical bills of the sick and arranges for the funeral of many.
While this hefty sum of money keeps Haiti from going under, it's commonly accepted that a lot more needs to be done to create a better social environment in Haiti while always pressuring the government to articulate and work on a comprehensive development plan that makes the Diaspora's financial help even more transformational.
The current government is banking on the middle class in the Diaspora to come and create businesses that generate jobs for everyone. It's hoped that the middle class can overcome years of bad business practices in Haiti and fully engage itself to the business of making Haiti better. This may not be for tomorrow, though.
What's doable today? As the title of this article suggests, how can we nurture this commitment to Haiti and its poor?
The regional associations in the Diaspora must continue to increase their efforts to develop their own little corner in Haiti.
The government and non-governmental associations could put together a needs assessment for every provincial city in Haiti, which could guide these associations in their work.
The "Association pour le developpement de l'Asile" may be the best organized regional association in the Diaspora with cells in almost all the major cities in North America — New Jersey, New York, Montreal, Philadelphia, Miami, etc,. There is an umbrella committee that links all these cells to each other.
There is a need to train these folks on organization-building so their work can bring more dividends to the country.
The work of non-governmental organizations (NGO) has been unfairly criticized in the last 10 years or so. While many of them constitute a payroll generator for their founders, there are a few NGO's that do a great job in Haiti. One of them is the Lambi Fund.
(It's hoped that whoever needs a forum to discuss the work of any serious NGO or regional association can use this space to publicize their efforts to make Haiti a more livable country. To me, a serious NGO or regional association is one that concretely improves the conditions of the less fortunate.)
I believe Lambi Fund is one such NGO whose mission is to "provide financial resources, training and technical assistance to peasant-led community organizations that promote the social and economic empowerment of the Haitian people".
When Lambi Fund announced about two or three months ago the hiring of Leonie Hermantin as their Deputy Director, most of us making a living in Miami or who are active in the non-profit world in the Diaspora took notice.
A veteran of the non-profit sector, Leonie Hermantin brought years of management experience to this organization. This hiring all but confirms again this organization's commitment to do things the right way on behalf of the poor.
Actually, it's not just Leonie; Lambi Fund has on its board and staff socially-committed folks that have a long history of working for justice for Haitians.
The last Lambi Fund newsletter highlights different projects that support "economic justice, democracy and sustainable development in Haiti" — whether it's a reforestation project, a micro-loan initiative, a fish or nursery project, the construction of cisterns or training seminar".
Here's how this newsletter talks about the benefits of the cisterns:" The cisterns went beyond the much needed provision of potable drinking water. It allowed girls to go to school with greater frequency and freed women from such arduous tasks." These girls no longer have to walk miles to fetch water for the family.
However, the pig project is by far the most popular of the Lambi Fund. Funds are raised to allow peasants to own their own pigs.
We all know how the slaughtering of the peasants' pigs in the '80's destroyed the peasant economy and pushed the peasants to leave for Nassau and Miami.
The good part is that from Miami or any other part of the Diaspora you can make a difference in the life of a peasant family. It's one less peasant converging to Port au Prince and potentially becoming a killer in the slums of Site Soley.
What's even better: It doesn't cost much at all to you.
The more you wait to sponsor one such organization, the more time it will take to change someone's living condition.
© 2007 Haitian Times