By any standard, 2010 in Haiti was a horrendously difficult year marked by the devastating earthquake, the cholera epidemic, hurricane Thomas, flooding, and “questionable” elections that resulted in violent street demonstrations. All this coming on top of pre-existing poverty among most of the population, an almost inexistent infrastructure, and a disoriented government (which, during the earthquake, lost 12 ministries out of 14 and several hundred staff members. )
To this day, Haiti is a nation suffering from massive post-traumatic stress disorder with no psychological help. No one has been spared heartache and loss. One minister lost his young son, another both of his parents, and our friends and colleagues lost their loved ones, their homes and places of work. Given the overwhelming events of this past year, I wonder how anyone in Haiti puts one foot in front of the other each day. But somehow the resilient and courageous Haitians do.
EcoWorks International had been working in Haiti for a year when the earthquake hit. We responded to the emergency by temporarily closing our Ganthier projects and moving our operations to the Bernard Mevs Hospital in Port-au-Prince.
Having completed all the work we set out to do there, we left when the last patients were discharged. And, it should be noted, that EWI spent all donations received for Haitian Relief in precisely the ways our donors intended us to:
Our disaster relief projects included serving 250 hot meals each day, until mid-March, to patients, their families, and the hospital staff; bringing in medical teams, equipment and medicine; and renovating a wing of the hospital were physical therapy was given to earthquake victims. We also gave books, toys and drawing kits to children at the hospital, food to two orphanages and one home for delinquent boys, and small amounts of cash and clothing to patients who had lost everything, when they were being discharged from the hospital.
Currently, we are completing the process of donating an ambulance to the Bernard Mevs Hospital, through the University of Miami’s Medishare Project. Medishare has formed a partnership with the hospital and is creating there the first Level One Trauma Center in the country.
On the first anniversary of the earthquake, I went back to Bernard Mevs Hospital. The staff had organized a simple and moving ceremony with a minute of silence at the moment when the earthquake occurred. We listened to prayers and songs and as hard as it was to remember all we had seen and lived through, it was also the only place any of us wanted to be.
Makeshift street camps; rubble, unsanitary conditions, garbage, unemployment and lack of access to education and healthcare, are still prevalent among those living on the street.Not much seems to be changing for the homeless and destitute. By one account, out of 1.3 million homeless only 500,000 have returned to their homes or found new shelter.This leaves 800,000 still in urgent need of, at least, temporary housing.
But there is another side to things as well:
One of the most dramatic recent events was the January 11th, 2011 re-opening of the “Iron Market”, a major landmark of Port-au-Prince. Digicel, the mobile phone company, paid for and oversaw the rebuilding of this fallen symbol which opened on time to mark the first anniversary of the earthquake. The workmanship, done by Haitians, is beautiful. And there is even funding for 50 years of maintenance! So while many complain about nothing being done, one man, Denis O’Brien, Founder of Digicel did what no one believed was possible.
Other recent events include the opening of a huge food market, with two floors of imported and local fine foods and the opening of an immense Home Depot-like hardware store.Also, one of the largest Caribbean fish farms is near where we work (2.5 million fish capacity), as is a state of the art (USDA level) slaughter house.
And the most prominent South Korean textile company has signed an agreement to build the largest textile workshop in Haiti, which will employ 2,000 people.
Ecoworks International (EWI)
Our strategy remains the same, to be acutely aware of and take into account the socio-political developments in Haiti, while not veering from our long-term projects which aim to break the cycle of poverty and develop a viable model that can be replicated in other parts of Haiti.
Our model is a comprehensive approach to development that has two interconnected categories of projects: (1) Economic growth and (2) Quality of Life. No successful turnaround of impoverished communities into vibrant economies is possible without several projects in each of these two categories being established simultaneously to strengthen each other.
We work in a rural area because building regional hubs of economic activity is central to the country’s long-term well being.
We are on the ground in the Commune of Ganthier working directly with a resident population of 80,000 spread out in more than 40 villages. We focus on agricultural projects to stimulate domestic food production, on an entrepreneurship program to diversify the local economy, on education to form the future local leaders, and on environmental stewardship. Future projects include rebuilding the healthcare center; bringing a solar energy plant; continuing to expand the business sector; and building a 4,000 resident ecovillage.
We build programs of high quality, to not only serve the existing population, but to attract and expand the middle class. The middle class is the forgotten segment of Haitian society, yet crucial to the country’s recovery. Its members are the ones who will help us turn this egregiously poor community into a viable and diversified economy.
We seek public/private partnerships that will provide the needed services and build the crucial infrastructure. Economic growth is at the heart of our endeavors; and quality of life projects (in education, healthcare, ecology) are the underpinning of the strong economy we want to help develop.
Board Member Heading Project: Ben Butler
Haitian partners: FDF, Commune of Ganthier
The 20,000 laying hen Egg Farm is at the heart of our economic development program and serves as the economic engine. It will produce about 18,000 eggs each day. We project that once fully operational, it will produce an annual profit of $100,000 of which 60% will be invested in local infrastructure and serve as leverage to fund high quality services. EWI’s Egg Farm Business Plan will be completed by the first week in March. USAID reiterated its commitment to give us a matching grant of $250,000 toward this project.
The other economic growth projects include an entrepreneurship program for adults and youth, a rural association to improve yields of existing farms, and establishing a fruit-tree nursery to plant mango orchards and a specialized vegetable farm for exports.
Board Member Heading Project: Susan Menendez
Haitian Partner: Boucledart, the premier Montessori school in Port-au-Prince, Founder Director, Maguy Clérié
The EWI Montessori School for 180-200 children will be the first in a rural area in Haitian history. We received more than 50 applications from teachers interested in being trained and working at our school. We are reviewing and selecting the four candidates who will become part of our founding staff.
After visiting our programs, the Digicel Foundation has very generously committed to providing a solid temporary building for the school. Since parents are worried about having their children in cement buildings, this structure has cement foundations but iron walls which makes it hurricane and earthquake proof.
Peter Medalia, Consulting Project Manager
In the village of La Hatte Cottin we are building the first of three fruit-tree and vegetable nurseries. The nursery is now open. We are testing the soil to improve its quality and have chosen the land where we will be planting our first mango orchard once the saplings reach the proper height. In the meantime, the first 1,000 trees are in pots and growing. The objective is to plant 10,000 fruit trees to reforest the area and provide additional income for the local farmers.
Ensie Romelus, Village Leader
We were asked by a persistent and persuasive group of women from the village of Gros- Balancé to start a microlending program. They promised to organize themselves into a club and to repay the loans on time. They did as they said, and the first group of the “Club Soleil” just completed their repayment. In February we will be expanding the loan program to include more women. Each participant receives $125 for the first loan; once repaid she can qualify for a $188 loan and then for a $250 loan. The loans help them purchase more merchandise to re-sell at the market, and pay for school tuitions, books and uniforms for their children, which increases the number of children attending school.
EWI is sharply focused on planned, long-term projects. However, from time to time we make an exception and either initiate our own or get involved in “exceptional” projects directed by others. We choose these projects based on the criteria that each must:
- Be responding to a necessity
- Be of unquestionable benefit to the country
- Be executed by professionals of the highest quality.
- Have clear goals and a solid implementation plan
- One such example was the disaster relief project we established at the Bernard Mevs Hospital following the earthquake.
- A more recent example is the Master Plan for the Reconstruction and Renewal of Port-au-Prince City-Center.
The Prince Charles Foundation of the UK (PFBE) and the Duany, Plater-Zyberk (DPZ) urban planning and architecture firm of Miami were commissioned by the Haitian government to create a master plan for the reconstruction and renewal of historical Port-au-Prince where all the ministries and their agencies will be located. This hub of government buildings will be complemented by rebuilt businesses since this part of the city represented 80% of the overall, pre-earthquake commercial activities in the capital; and the plan also includes residential units for the middle class.EWI was assigned the responsibility of political and cultural strategies and logistics to facilitate a successful charrette.
Altogether, about 400 people attended the DPZ-PFBE eight-day charrette and three public presentations which were enthusiastically reviewed in the press. Some of the most original ideas presented by DPZ were the transformation of each residential block into an “urban village” with its own infrastructure and green space (see sketch below). Another was building an artificial swamp- like garden that would act as a natural filter for waste water before it reaches the sea. The final version of the plan which consists of several options will be submitted to the Haitian government on February 17th. We are very proud to have participated in this worthy project.
- Recently, EWI initiated a project that will introduce the concept of legal clinics in Haiti. The need is enormous and we believe it will greatly benefit the population that cannot otherwise afford legal advice. It will also provide an opportunity for young Haitian lawyers to give back to their communities. In the US, we are partnering with Lawyers to the Rescue Foundation based in Miami; and in Haiti with Sibylle Theard Mevs, lawyer and President of the most important Haitian lawyers’ association, and Mathias Pierre a successful businessman and founder of a nonprofit for 800 disadvantaged youth. We will begin with legal clinics helping young entrepreneurs and then expand the range of services to include criminal and family law. The clinics will start in April 2011.
© DPZ 2011
We gratefully acknowledge the generous support we have received during this past year. We particularly recognize the immense contributions made by our own very active and committed board of directors. We are thankful to The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) which has given us three grants enabling us to be effective in our disaster response; to Smith & Wollensky and the many restaurants and beverage companies of the Miami Beach below 5th Street area which came together to raise much needed funds in the aftermath of the earthquake, and to the many individual donors who so selflessly gave of their time and money to support our work. And, we acknowledge with deep appreciation the doctors and nurses, and other professionals who came to Haiti under our umbrella when they were needed the most, and worked in very difficult conditions to save lives and give hope.
Nothing would have been possible without our steady and solid partners: Max Antoine, Executive Director of the Presidential Commission for the Development of the Border Territories (FDF), Ministry of Finance; Ms. Maguy Clrié, Founder and Director of Boucledart, the Port-au-Prince Montessori School with whom we partner on our education program; the Principal Mayor of the Commune of Ganthier, Mr. Ralph Lapointe, and the Presidents of Village Associations of the Commune of Ganthier with whom we work very closely.
This year we look forward to our new collaborations with the Digicel Foundation, and USAID WINNER.
Our approach has been to start with smaller projects first and progress to the larger projects as our partnerships with the different villages in the Commune of Ganthier evolve and strengthen. We have completed building latrines in four villages, we have established the fruit-tree and vegetable nursery in La Hatte Cottin, and the microlending program in Gros Balancé.
In 2011, we are establishing our largest projects: the Montessori School, and the Egg Farm. To do so, we must raise slightly over one million dollars ($900,000 for programs and $150,000 for administration – or 16%).
USAID has committed to give us a grant of $250,000; which leaves us with the task of raising $750,000.
The good news is that we need to raise funds for the egg farm only once. Indeed, after one year of being fully operational, the egg farm will be completely self-funded and will, in fact, produce profits that will be invested in local infrastructure and programs such education, healthcare and potable water.
We look forward to this New Year full of promise and possibilities, and we count our blessings in having you as our friend and supporter.