Relief and reconstruction work following the 2010 Haiti earthquake has been roundly criticized, as only 0.6% of the billions of funds raised reached Haitian organizations. Aid largely marginalized Haitian leaders and communities, with little attention being devoted to building the long-term capacity of Haitian organizations. Many international aid organizations lacked credible local information due to non-existent relationships with communities, and local priorities were largely not solicited, nor included in planning processes.
Hurricane Matthew touched down in Haiti on 4 October 2016, and caused damage unimaginable to most, but which was unfortunately all too familiar to many in Haiti. The Grand’Anse region in the south, known across the country as Haiti’s bread basket, saw 90% of homes and 95% of schools wiped out, crops decimated, and destruction of already fragile infrastructure. Yet despite the damage and suffering, countless stories emerged, even in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, of ordinary Haitians helping each other, in whatever modest ways they could.
And local foundations like the Haiti Community Foundation (HCF) and Lambi Fund are there to recognize and build from this natural impulse, supporting Haitians as they set about rebuilding their country again, from the bottom up. They understand that now isn’t the time to marginalize Haitian leaders and communities, but rather to put them firmly in charge of their own destinies. Just hours after Hurricane Mathew, the HCF and Lambi Fund were already reaching out to partner networks on the ground, offering provisions for immediate relief and support, identifying priorities, and collaboratively building actions plans rooted in stated community interests.
And they will be there in the long-term to make sure that this time around, local voices are heard and heeded. Because this is what allows victims to be turned into leaders.