Haiti has a population of approximately 11 million people and has upwards of 760 “orphanages”. Many of these “orphanages” are not licensed by IBESR, which is the Government of Haiti’s department that regulates “orphanages” and the outward adoption of Haitian children. The term “orphanages” is a misnomer; many children that live in these facilities are adopted-out of Haiti and have living parents. Many “orphanages” are very proud to make statements like the following on their websites, “We have six orphans now; we hope to have 15 by the end of the year.” We believe this approach is backward and upside down. Entities and people in this field should be measuring success on how few children are institutionalized and how few Haitian children are adopted overseas.
HaitiChildren does not advocate for the institutionalization of children. We believe in and have active programs to keep families together. For instance, in the wake of Hurricane Mathew in the Fall of 2016 HaitiChildren, the Digicel Foundation and the Haitian Government collaborated on a text campaign. 2.5 million people in Haiti were asked to call the campaign’s number if families became separated from one another. Over 100 calls were received and families were assisted.
HaitiChildren has been working with Haiti’s most vulnerable children for 28 years. We have raised and invested over $40m in Haiti – there are no other programs like ours, especially for children with disabilities. The Government does not have the funding to care for these children and most “orphanages” funded with foreign aid only accept “perfect” children because they are more desirable for outward adoption.
We believe Haiti can only be lifted up from within. No amount of foreign aid will create meaningful, long-term solutions. That does not mean the international aid community does not have a role to play; we believe that investment in education, job training, best practice medical care, state of the art physical therapy, community education, etc. are all transferable skills to Haitians.
We would like to see the increasing involvement of Haiti industry in partnering with us to provide the funding and programming for the projects we have initiated, incubated and operated for many years.
Our executive management team visits Washington, DC. regularly each year to meet with Senators, Congressmen and their staffs to share experiences and views on current affairs in Haiti.
We have come to the conclusion that the combination of international foreign philanthropic aid and financial assistance from our Government and others may be dis-incentivizing Haiti to getting down to the really hard work in building a nation. There is a saying in Haiti which summarizes our concern brilliantly, “If work is so good, the rich would do it.”
Our conversations with our friends (both sides of the aisle) are polite, but we are emphatic in our view that the US should hold Haiti too much stricter standards of accountability and achievement of results with funds donated and invested by the US Government.
We believe that international aid efforts should be better coordinated to create meaningful, measurable and accountable results consistent with the needs and gaps in the social service sector in Haiti. Far too many times we see half a dozen aid groups. These are good-hearted, faithful people that want to help Haiti. However, we ask a particular question before embarking on any new project- “What is the motive driving our desire to provide aid in Haiti? Is it to deliver long-lasting programming? Is it an act of redemption? Or, could it be the intoxication of being able to provide help so quickly, inexpensively with an immediate sense of gratification?” There is no judgment intended; again we debate these very questions almost every day of the year.
What is elementary is that lack of coordination is inefficient and dollars are wasted as a result.
We would like to see more cooperation of international aid efforts and higher standards of return on investment. Further, international aid needs to collaborate with the Government of Haiti to ensure their well-intended aid is actually consistent with the vision and policies of the Government of Haiti.
The need for long-term economic sustainability must be a growing component of any organization providing aid to Haiti. Quite simply, there are too many aid organizations chasing fewer and fewer dollars to be donated to Haiti.
Our farm project is doing just this; we grow a large portion of the fruits and vegetables we consume at the HaitiChildren Village. We have 90,000 honey bees that produce the finest honey around, our goats and cows produce milk, and provides locally raised and culturally appropriate nutrition. This initiative saves us hundreds upon hundreds of dollars each month; those are funds we do not need to raise. Further, we sell excess produce in the markets creating money that gets reinvested into growing the scale of the farm.