Britt Lake and I spent a week in Haiti in January visiting a number of GlobalGiving project partners, all of which our corporate partners’ employees and communities supported through GlobalGiving last year. I intended to follow-up sooner after my trip, but I’ve admittedly had somewhat of a difficult timing wrapping my mind around what my exact messaging to partners should be. Because as productive and motivating as much of what I saw was, there is still much room for improvement.
The great news is that the organizations we visited were incredibly inspiring. We specifically targeted some of the smaller, lesser known organizations to better familiarize ourselves with their work. And we were not disappointed. The happy, healthy, and absolutely adorable orphans at the Rivers of Hope Orphanage were a joy to see, and the conditions they lived in would make any adoptive parent or donor happy and proud. We saw some truly community-based work during our visit to European Disaster Volunteers, visiting the various schools and orphanages with which they work. We met with a clean water organization called Deep Springs International, which is not only distributing chlorine solution and buckets to thousands of families but also employs mostly Haitian workers (all but two of its roughly 240 employees). We visited a Haitian organization called Lambi Fund, with which we have been working for years prior to the earthquake, and met an entire group of their beneficiaries in a rural part of the country. We visited with International Medical Corps, who operates a primary health care clinic in one of the largest tent cities in Port-au-Prince on the grounds of a former golf course. They were also kind enough to stay with us for over an hour while our truck got stuck in the mud on the way out of the area (never a dull moment!). And that was only about half of our visits – there were many other very interesting and moving encounters that week as well.
As I’m sure you’ve heard and read about recently, not all the news to report from our trip is good. Many people are questioning the ability of international aid and governments to effectively help the people of Haiti as a whole, especially since we passed the anniversary of the earthquake on January 12th and the overall landscape is, indeed, still rather bleak. Much of the rubble has not been cleared, let alone are many homes and buildings being rebuilt. Every park and/or open space in Port-au-Prince you can imagine is now an IDP (internally displaced person) camp, housing much of the 1 million-plus Haitians who are estimated to be living in the tents within them. Cholera is a growing problem, and diseases like malaria and tuberculosis persist. While it is difficult to see how and where immediate widespread changes will occur, the organizations we visited provide a stark contrast to the generally grim picture the press has, in many cases rightfully, painted.
The people and infrastructure of Haiti have a long way to go as a whole, and I am proud to be working with project organizations like the ones mentioned earlier, as well as our corporate partners like Discovery Communications, Capital One, Dell, and Nike to do what we can, no matter how large or small.