Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Deforestation and Rainfall, A Costly Combination: Flooding Sweeps through the South

In October of 2011, the Lambi Fund of Haiti's board and staff members planned to spend three days in Southern Haiti to visit grain mills, sheep farming and ox-plowing projects. The plan was to stay in Les Cayes and travel daily to different project sites located in neighboring rural communities.
Unrelenting rains offered visitors a unique opportunity to understand how accelerated deforestation affects the realities of partner communities and Lambi Fund staff.
The first site visit to The Organization of Good Samaritans (OBS) was a suspense-filled journey as board and staff traveled on flooded roads, apprehensively watching the water levels rise as they moved further inland. The visit to this thriving grain mill (first funded by Lambi Fund eight years ago) had to be curtailed because of the risk posed by rapidly rising waters.
Staying in Les Cayes, a town of about 100,000 citizens, did not prove more comforting. Following three days of steady rainfall, cresting rivers and swollen ravines flooded the city and its surrounding rural communities.
Waist high flood waters in both rural and urban areas drove home the point that deforestation impacts Haitians on a regular basis. For Lambi Fund staff, especially the regional coordinators, visits to project sites have become increasingly risky propositions, particularly during the rainy season. Roads become impassable at a moment's notice, and journeys quickly turn life-threatening for staff traveling by car or motor bike.
So how does deforestation impact flooding? While statistics vary, most agree that tree cutting has reduced Haiti's tree coverage from 1-4%. The resulting erosion of Haiti's mountains has destroyed an estimated two-thirds of the country's fertile farmland. This loss of trees has meant that arable soil, anchored to the land by their roots, is quickly washed away during the rainy season.
Consequently, without any soil and roots to hold water, a normal amount of water are not absorbed. As such, rainy seasons have turned Haiti into a landscape of overflowing rivers - carrying with them valuable top soil and causing immeasurable damage.
While the world holds its breath when forecasted hurricanes approach Haiti, not much attention is paid to the impact of the rainy season on farming communities.
For Lambi Fund's partners, deforestation has transformed the rainy season from a much awaited source of irrigation to a season fraught with danger, one engendering unanticipated losses and devastation.
This was witnessed in the recent visit to the South, where some organizations lost 50% of their crops and about 80% of pastures for sheep were destroyed. This means that farmers, who accessed credit from the community-run mutual credit funds, will experience great hardships. Their repayment plans often hinge on the anticipated sale of crops. Meanwhile, sheep growers' profitability is jeopardized since they will be forced to reinvest in the purchase and preparation of animal feed.
As this vulnerability becomes more apparent, appreciation for Lambi Fund's reforestation efforts has grown. Partners have responded by participating enthusiastically in training workshops offered on reforestation and seedling cultivation. Members of organizations work collectively to build nurseries, care for seedlings, and replant young trees on their lands and in vulnerable watershed areas.
For the past ten years, Lambi Fund has been steadfast in its comprehensive, grassroots-driven reforestation efforts.
In addition to including a reforestation component in all funded projects, Lambi Fund has incorporated environmentally safe practices in other programmatic activities, most notably animal husbandry. Free grazing has been identified as a significant cause of deforestation and environmental degradation, particularly when goats and sheep are allowed to feed on young trees and seedlings. As a result, all Lambi Fund supported animal husbandry projects build enclosures where animals are kept. The offered workshops show farmers how to grow and preserve the forage needed to keep their animals wellfed and healthy even during the dry season.
Over the course of 10 years, Lambi Fund partners have prepared over 1.5 million seedlings and have planted 1.2 million tree saplings. It is estimated that 60% of these trees survive, meaning that about 720,000 trees have matured in communities throughout Haiti. Lambi Fund also has plans to hire an agronomist with expertise in agro-forestry who will oversee all reforestation projects. In addition, staff members are exploring the use of grassroots-friendly GPS technology to better document the impact of Lambi Fund's reforestation projects. Mapping reforestation progress will better allow Lambi Fund to see the strengths and weakness regarding tree planting efforts – allowing staff to enforce and adapt strategies as needed.
In spite of the daunting challenges presented to farmers by deforestation, they are not losing hope. Clermont Yogane Enold, a twenty-something farmer of the Association of Youth from Tet-Kole Bedo, summarized it most eloquently. When asked what they would do to address the losses sustained in the floods he replied: "We cannot give into despair, we will work the land, plant trees and grow our crops once again…."
Read more from Lambi Fund's Fall Newsletter here.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

FAMAB Members Visit Lambi Fund's Office

Early on August 28, 2010 the Lambi Fund staff was greeted with 54 members of FAMAB (The Organization of Brave Women) who dropped by for a special visit.  It should be noted that Lambi Fund's office is quite small and it was a packed house!    

Members of the organization arrived at our office in Bois Verna around 10 am and informed us that their visit had 3 main objectives:

First, they came to wish Josette (the Haiti Director) a speedy recovery since they had learned that she was dealing with some health issues. The visit was one of solidarity with Josette to express their love and their support to her in her time of need. They prayed and sang for her speedy recovery.

·         Second, the purpose of the visit was to say thank you and express their gratitude for the fact that almost a year ago, in the aftermath of the earthquake, the Lambi Fund of Haiti helped 100 of its members (Emergency grants were provided to the women of FAMAB). This support enabled the women to recapitalize their small businesses and pay the fees needed to send their children to school.  The women also took the opportunity to give a verbal report about how the emergency assistance had helped them and how they were doing today (they have already submitted a written report).

·         Third, they wanted to request a loan because their members’ financial situation was critical especially before the schools reopen.


We must note that 10 out of the 54 women who came to visit were elderly women, who in spite of their advanced years are still conducting vending activities.  

There were also 35 women who were relatively young and who were also small vendors. The cost of their supplies has increased and their profit has decreased considerably.

9 members of the organization were very young and are now attending school (computer, cosmetology, and secondary school), but in order to pay for their classes they have also gotten involved in vending activities. These young women have become very active and are revitalizing the organization.


During the visit, FAMAB members who benefited from the post-earthquake emergency grant thanked Lambi Fund for the support provided to 100 of its members. They shared with us what a tremendous life saver the grant had been. They also informed us that there are only 20 members still living in a camp in the Bel-Air neighborhood.  

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Deputy Director, Leonie Hermantin, Braces for the Storm...

Since I live in Miami, I am quite accustomed to the "frenzy"before the storm.... We rush to get water, canned goods, candles etc.. I am in Haiti today, and while the president and his team have been encouraging folks to get ready, there seems to be total lack of interest in or fear of  the impending storm... This morning I asked my waiter if he was getting ready for Emily and he asked if that was the lady sitting at the next table. When I specified what that was, he just shrugged and stated that he was not too worried... Same sentiments at the office. The camp dwellers were told to seek shelter (where?) cut down tree limbs or tie down the tents... Mark Schuller tells me that while they are aware of the storm, they just don't have the material needed to protect themselves.
At the hotel, no one has told me anything about the storm, no contingency plan...evacuation plan... NADA... Meanwhile, like a good Miami resident, I am leaving work a bit early and I am getting my water, canned goods, candles and ice cream....

Read more about the fast approaching tropical storm here.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

July Giving Challenge

Happy July!  July means the days are longer, the nights warmer…and that it’s time once again for Lambi Fund’s July Giving Challenge..  For the entire month of July, the SG Foundation will match every $1 donated up to $10,000.

This is an unbeatable opportunity to choose from one of the Lambi Fund of Haiti’s many programs working to rebuild and you can double your impact.

Worried about stemming the spread of cholera?

Provide clean water in rural communities throughout Haiti by supporting the construction of rainwater cisterns.  (Learn how the rainy season is dramatically increasing the rate of infections here).

Interested in supporting local food security?

Start a tool bank and help rural communities throughout Haiti expand crop yields.

Want to support the creation of local businesses in Haiti?

Launch a community microcredit fund and provide women with the credit needed to purchase goods and supplies for small business enterprises.

Let’s rise to the challenge and make more of an impact than ever in Haiti!  For the entire month of July, $1 really equals $2.  Tell your friends and family and together we can surpass July’s Giving Challenge.  Donate now!

To good health and a happy summer,

Marie Marthe Saint Cyr
Executive Director

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Thoughts on Haiti

The world is visibly smaller while remaining more unequal, with less parity and greater inequity.  We communicate in megabytes and sound bites in one sequence of events.  These repeated patterns from the political, social, economic to the recreational arena are making learning a challenge or we can say they are challenging the methodologies and processes of learning as we know it.  It has become essential to be not just a student but an evolving student of the world, shaping plans, selecting approaches and creating adapted strategies to conform and progress in a dynamically evolving environment.  Our world requires an extreme capacity for mélange, extraction and blending, thus an unusual creative ability to adjust and progress at the same time.
The invitation to the Festival of ideas and art has been for me a renewal of reflection in arenas that have been the focus of my activities for the last three years.  Prior to the earthquake of January 12th , 2010,  I pondered on this question:  How can I have such affinity to a place, a people, living condition a style of thinking while feeling that my contribution is so limited. Even when I knew the interdependence of the world makes it such that no one individual is responsible for change, I feel challenged to find myself in the chain of change. 
While this is sharing an individual reflection, it is all about Haiti. It is the pervasive need to be integrated: the blending of belonging, obligation, duty and choice; all reminders that the ties are infinitesimally interdependent.  The question becomes can Haiti change without, you (reader), me (citizen), the diaspora (disillusioned Citizenry) and outsiders, foreigners often more integrated in the internal affairs of the Country.
At times, I even ask can we be a nation despite our grand history.  Can the diaspora become content and contained and support the internal practices that can create change rather than interpose the creativity that they have harnessed to adapt to their new milieu?  Because I have created a framework that contains both my cultural source, my music, my colorful perspectives and survived in another land, is that strategy importable or transportable to Haiti? And will it lead to critical change?  In the same way, I can ask can we import food from outside just because some market is subsidizing it and abandon our own ability to feed our people even more nutritiously.
A small group who has taken seriously the notion of grass roots as a core for innovation and creative adaptability, called the Lambi Fund attracted my attention with an approach, a methodology and strategies that are grass root driven, with local planning and local visioning in a partnership that is clad in parity, respectful of self-determination and  mutual respect.   Grass root meaning the population of Haitians in rural areas, those who are often denied their rights and remain afloat by their own efforts; they, in essence, have survived. 
At the core of reconstruction, changing Haiti is about:  Integration, Decentralization, Infrastructure development within a framework of renewal and protection of the environment; broadened advocacy through formal education,  civic education and strategic partnerships for sustainable change.
Haiti has become a nation of projects.  Out of diplomacy into reality, Can any of these projects be sustainable without a National Plan for Haiti with capable an efficient leadership?

Marie Marthe Saint Cyr
Executive Director   

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Father is...

The days are longer, nights warmer and summer is here!  This year Father's Day is June 19th - an especially important day for everyone at the Lambi Fund of Haiti.  It's a day to honor all of the strong fathers, grandfathers and men in our lives.

Thank your dad for the many great
life lessons he has taught you!
Since the earthquake, Lambi Fund has worked hand-in-hand with thousands of great fathers who have worked to provide for their families and to rebuild their communities.  This daily display of resilience and humble generosity has been a constant inspiration to Lambi Fund.

Honor the special men in your life by helping fathers throughout Haiti build a strong future for their sons and daughters.
Make a donation in his honor and help farmers plant more crops and increase food supply by providing organic seeds, starting a community tool bank, or purchasing an ox-plow.

Or provide local fishermen with the chance to catch more fish bypurchasing new fishing equipment and larger nets.

Each and every one of these gifts is accompanied with training on things like organic farming, sustainable fishing practices and organizational management.

Thank your father for everything he has taught you by providing fathers throughout Haiti with the opportunity for training, sustainable incomes, and a bright future.
To our Fathers,

Marie Marthe Saint Cyr
Executive Director

Click here to print out a special Father's Day Card available in English or Kreyol. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Building Community, One Mill at a Time

The St. Martin Youth Association for Community Development (AJSDC) is a vibrant local organization in the Artibonite Valley of Haiti. This fertile region produces the majority of Haiti's rice and AJSDC has just opened a community grain mill to support these agricultural efforts.
Years of hard work and community cooperation has gone into making this grain mill a reality. The group, who formed nearly 20 years ago and has 305 members, has been working together on sustainable development projects for quite some time, but this is by far their largest undertaking. AJSDC finds strength in its diversity.
A good chunk of its members have been with the group since its inception — they provide valuable leadership and wisdom, while a flood of new members infuse AJSDC with youth, vitality and energetic plans for the future. AJSDC's ability to engage the youth has directly strengthened the local organization and revitalized its efforts in community development.
PhotoAJSDC's new grain mill
The grain mill opening was a jubilant affair. Men, women and children came wearing their finest clothing. Hundreds of community members were in attendance. It was clear by the excitement and pride in the air that this was much more than the opening of a grain mill - it was a celebration of years of hard work and the countless possibilities for the future.
It was a meticulously planned program, with cultural components sprinkled throughout, with singing, dancing, speeches, a play and two skits. The older, more senior members opened the ceremony and spoke first about the organization, its history and the work they have done to improve the community. Newer and younger members then spoke about their vision and joy in making the grain mill a reality.
"This was much more than the opening of a grain mill — it was a celebration of years of hard work and the countless possibilities for the future."
The president of AJSDC, Wilner Pierre Louis, proudly declared, "With the opening of this mill, we can be the masters of our own destiny." He rejoiced in explaining how this mill will allow members to mill their own grains. No more will community members need to walk long distances for milling services. No more will they have to pay exorbitant milling fees. Milling services at this community mill will be at an affordable price and of high quality.
The mill is also a place to prepare and store seeds thanks to a large storage room. This small detail will allow members to save seeds for the next planting season and to achieve higher levels of economic security.
PhotoLongtime AJSDC member joyously celebrating the mill opening
The woman [pictured right] was dancing about ecstatically throughout the ceremony because as she exclaimed, "I am so happy not to have to walk far [to have my grains milled] and the kids can go to school now because they will not have to help transporting the grains."
Members worked hard to ensure that the grain mill meets all of their needs. Along with a motorized tiller, storage rooms and space to prepare the grains, the organization is building latrines near the building. There is also access to water which assists in running the mill and providing clean drinking water.
"With the opening of this mill, we can be the stewards of our own destiny."
PhotoThe motorized tiller that will mill grains and rice
While members fastidiously thanked the Lambi Fund of Haiti for its assistance in making this mill a reality, Lambi Fund staff could only respond with the utmost respect and gratitude for the hard work and resilience these members have shown in the last year. Staff members thanked them for their perseverance, strength and unity as they have moved forward after the earthquake.
Lambi Fund's new Executive Director, Marie Saint Cyr, attended the meeting and congratulated AJSDC members and the project committee for their long-term collaboration with Lambi Fund as the community works to realize its hopes and dreams. This building is more than just a building and more than a mill, it is a symbol of community strength and unity. With every brick and piece of mortar, this mill is building community.
PhotoA sign hung in preparation for the celebration reading "Welcome Lambi Fund of Haiti"

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Happy Haitian Flag Day!

Catherine Flon stitching together
 the Haitian flag.

 Happy Haitian Flag Day!  On this day in 1803, the Haitian flag was created in the town of Arcahaie (just outside of Port-au-Prince).  In the midst of Haiti’s war for independence, the revolutionary leader Jean-Jacques Dessalines asked Catherine Flon, his god-daughter, to sew a flag together for the soon to be independent nation.  By removing the white stripe of the French tricolored flag, symbolizing European domination and colonization, and stitching together the remaining red and blue stripes, representing the nation’s black and interracial citizens, the flag came to embody the spirit of Haitian freedom, national pride, and individual liberty.
In honor of Flag Day, the Lambi Fund of Haiti would like to salute the proud people of Haiti and Haitian diaspora living abroad. Today as we look back on the proud history of Haiti, the first and only republic to hold a successful slave rebellion, Lambi Fund looks forward to a promising and united future.
In honor of democracy and continued social empowerment,may Haiti stand together -strong and united like the stitched together stripes on the flag as we rebuild for a stronger tomorrow.
Bonn Fet Drapo Nou, Viv Ayiti! 

Man selling Haitian flags

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cholera Continues in Haiti's Countryside

17 May 2011 - Cholera, like most news in Haiti, made headlines and then was placed on the sidelines as other more "newsworthy" events were brought to the forefront. Since the fall of last year, Haiti has been battling this ugly epidemic and it has been particularly devastating in the countryside due a lack of water infrastructure and nearly unnavigable dirt roads. 

     Haitians still in the midst of dealing with the tragedy of the earthquake began losing thousands to a once forgotten illness. For many this is an unimaginable new wave of heartbreak and loss. As of March 2011, over 240,000 individuals have been infected and 4,600 people have died from cholera.
     The troubling part is that the worst is yet to come. A new study conducted at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Harvard Medical School predicts that the cholera epidemic could be far worse than initial projections, which had estimated 400,000 cases of the disease throughout the epidemic. The study is predicting that there could be nearly twice that number — perhaps 779,000 cases of cholera between March and November of this year alone.
     Why? How can it be that cases of cholera had not been seen on the island for more than 100 years and now the disease has reemerged as a full blown epidemic? Simply put, cholera is bacteria spread from person-toperson through contaminated food and water. It causes diarrhea and can be deadly if left untreated (ScienceDaily, March 2011). Cholera is completely preventable in places where modern sanitation and clean water are readily available.
     This is not the case in Haiti. Only 1 in 5 Haitians have access to a sanitary toilet or latrines. Of the rural population in Haiti, just 12% have access to sanitation and 51% have access to improved drinking water sources. These dire circumstances create a perfect storm for cholera to grow, spread and continue to contaminate individuals. The devastating truth is that 2010 brought the earthquake which was over and done with in mere minutes. Cholera which arrived just nine months later is not quick. It is persistent and will linger for years given the proper conditions.
Girls Carrying clean water
     And linger it has. Cholera continues to claim lives in rural communities throughout Haiti. A lack of proper water infrastructure and sanitation continue infections, while poor roads and a complete shortage of timely transportation (like ambulances) greatly reduce timely access to immediate care and increase the severity of the illness.
     Several longtime partners of Lambi Fund have lost their lives to cholera and every partner has been affected by this deadly infection. Farmers from the Bige district recount story after story of carrying sick friends and family members on wooden doors across rivers. Four people carry one sick individual as they trudge through mud, fields, water and over hills in pursuit of the nearest Cholera Treatment Center (CTC). Others cart loved ones in wheel barrels, which as you can imagine is a jarring and unwieldy journey for someone who is ill and in desperate need of a hospital bed. Treatment at a CTC in a timely manner is proven to be critical, yet for the majority living in the most remote parts of Haiti, they simply are not close enough to be effective. Even more upsetting, many of these centers have been closed down as officials declare the need is subsiding.
     What is being done in efforts to contain and control the rate of infections? The Haitian Ministry of Health has done a good job of launching a prompt and comprehensive awareness campaign. They have launched radio and television ads throughout Haiti that educate citizens on the contamination, spread, and symptoms of cholera, along with techniques for prevention and care. Educational materials and brochures have been widely distributed to health centers, schools and other public gathering places throughout the country. This campaign has been particularly effective in cities and towns and countless lives have been saved, yet for the rural parts of Haiti much of this information has yet to be received and cholera, not surprisingly rages on, intensifying in new spots of infections.
These community members living in rural
Haiti have received clean water training
     Disseminating information in the rural parts of Haiti has been particularly difficult. Following the immediate outbreak, hysteria reigned. Due to a complete lack of knowlege of what cholera is or how it spread, community members abstained from organizing or meeting in local spaces. This immense fear made holding meetings to inform locals on the prevention of cholera very difficult. 
     Getting communities to once again organize and trust one another was the first step. From there, Lambi Fund has been fervently working to share the published information and reinforce the messages and strategies proven safe.
     This has been a two pronged approach: first staff are meeting with organizations and providing information and visuals that explain how to prevent the spread of cholera. This includes water purification methods and hand washing.
     From there, Lambi Fund field staff are planning training sessions for 2-3 people in each partner organization. These trainees have the role of circulating information regarding cholera prevention to all organization members and their families.
     This is a critical component as these water ambassadors will work to keep the information alive. In order to prevent the return of old habits, they will work with community members to remind them to continue washing their hands and purifying their water long after the scare of cholera has subsided.
     In the South, cholera numbers have been steadily increasing. Cholera broke out in the Artibonite region of Haiti, thus most treatment efforts have been focused in this region.
     Given this reality, Lambi Fund project monitors are visiting all partner organizations in the southern provinces. During these visits, they are sharing with members how to prevent and protect their families from contracting the cholera bacteria. If symptoms are shown, Lambi Fund recommends keeping individuals hydrated through a serum of water and sugar. This is incredibly important, because these are measures to take before seeking a CTC, which are few and far between in the South.
Women using clean cooking methods
to prevent the transmission of cholera
     This health crisis was certainly not one that was foreseen, but Lambi Fund has been doing its very best to mobilize and utilize its resources in an effort to educate the greatest number of individuals in rural communities. Maricelle, an organization member and recipient of Lambi Fund's cholera awareness program said, "We went through the earthquake, Lambi Fund is with us. We went through hurricanes, Lambi Fund is there and now we face the cholera epidemic and Lambi Fund is with us distributing goods and resources. Lambi Fund is with us hand in hand through the tough times."
     To be certain, cholera will not disappear overnight. Josette Perard, Lambi Fund's Program Director emphasized the importance of these education programs stating that, "It is essential that we reinforce the prevention of cholera through education across Lambi Fund's various projects as a means to controlling and eliminating the disease." It is hoped that through this comprehensive grassroots campaign to educate and improve access to clean water, entire communities will benefit from improved health and cleaner environments as a direct result.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day!

Earth Day is a big day for everyone here at Lambi Fund and we hope you are using today as a chance to give a little something back to this wonderful planet that we call home.

In Haiti, thousands of Haitian peasants are becoming stewards of their environments as they work steadfastly to restore and protect their mountains, hills, rivers and crops.  Community-led reforestation is a major component of Lambi Fund's work.  Each and every organization and project that Lambi Fund partners with community organizations on has a reforestation aspect.

By funding the supplies needed to build tree nurseries, purchase seeds and tools like shovels and picks and providing the training necessary to nurture and plant tree saplings throughout Haiti, hundreds of thousands of trees have been planted in Haiti's countrysides.  Members of community organizations are directly invested in the health and well-being of these tree seedlings as they are responsible for the daily management and upkeep of the tree nurseries.  Once the saplings are ready to be planted, organizations share the saplings and decide where they should be planted.

Peruse our brand new reforestation slideshow or watch our reforestation video to learn even more!

TOGETHER, we can make this Earth greener, healthier, and a better place to live.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lambi Fund Hires New Executive Director

23 March 2011 - I want to be the first to let you know that the Lambi Fund of Haiti has hired a new Executive Director. The appointment of Marie Marthe Saint Cyr as Lambi Fund’s new ED is very exciting for our organization and our rural partners in Haiti.

Marie Marthe St. Cyr,
Lambi Fund's new ED
Within this new restructuring of Lambi Fund, I will continue to focus my efforts on outreach, development, and administration. The decision to appoint a new executive director was one that was not taken lightly. Following last year’s earthquake, the need of our grassroots partners in Haiti has expanded immensely and Marie Marthe’s presence and vision will allow Lambi Fund to more effectively respond to the pressing needs and challenges of our rural partners during this critical period for Haiti.

So, it is my pleasure to introduce Marie Marthe to you! Ms. Saint Cyr was born in Haiti, speaks fluent Haitian Kreyol and has a long history of working hand-in-hand with grassroots organizations. As our past Board Chair, Ms. Saint Cyr knows the organization from the inside out and has dedicated her time and energy to Lambi Fund for many years.

Max Blanchet, the current board chair, is equally excited about this new addition, “After 17 years of existence, and in view of the current situation in Haiti, we have chosen a leader with local roots, solid management and operations experience as Lambi Fund expands our efforts to address the increasing demands of the Haitian organizations in the rural areas.”

This is a time for opportunity in Haiti and Lambi Fund looks forward to instilling positive change - to expanding the organization and building a more unified and dynamic cohort to better serve rural communities in Haiti.

Together, Lambi Fund looks forward to strengthening its mission and working to better serve its rural partners in this next chapter of the organization. We hope you’ll join us on this journey – stay tuned!

Moving onward and upward,

Karen Ashmore
Lambi Fund of Haiti

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Stories of Survival: Haiti Earthquake

Two women living in rural Haiti share stories of how the earthquake affected them and their families.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Stories of Survival

Watch the Lambi Fund of Haiti's most recent YouTube video which talks with two earthquake survivors.   The two women tell their stories of of hardship, life, loss, and survival.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Haiti: One Year Later

One year later. Three hundred and sixty-five days since the ground shook and forever changed Haiti. I thought a lot about what I wanted to say about the earthquake and my Ayiti Cheri as we take this day to remember and honor the loved ones lost.

Undoubtedly, countless news stories will air this week looking at Haiti’s journey this past year and how the rebuilding effort is progressing. To be certain, Haiti has had more than a tough go at things. The earthquake left Port-au-Prince and many cities in ruin, hurricanes flooded and damaged the south, cholera has mercilessly swept through the country leaving Haiti brimming with hardships, anxiety, and uncertainty, and Presidential elections held in November had chaotic outcomes. The entire election swirled with rumors of rampant fraud and ballot-stuffing and most viewed the entire process as illegitimate. When results for the run-off election were announced in December, riots and violence broke out in the streets of Port-au-Prince.

By most accounts, the rebuilding effort in Haiti seems stagnant. Tons and tons of rubble still litter Port-au-Prince’s streets, millions struggle to survive in tent cities, a comprehensive reconstruction plan still has not been agreed upon, and millions of dollars in aid money sits in banks. Despite these tough realities and the difficult road that Haiti must journey down, I would like for a moment to stop and offer a glimmer of hope. It seems that despite all this, life in Haiti goes on.

In 2010, the Lambi Fund of Haiti witnessed countless stories of heroism, peasant solidarity, recovery, and movements to envision, plan, and work to rebuild Haiti. While many may paint Haitians as helpless victims, nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, it is in the people where Haiti’s strength lies.
Immediately following the earthquake, Lambi Fund staff and its local partners were very much in the midst of the disaster. It took an agonizing six days to finally make contact with Lambi Fund staff in Haiti. Fearing the worst, Lambi Fund’s country director, Josette Perard, reported that the office just blocks from the presidential palace was damaged, yet miraculously all staff members were alive and healthy. Everyone though, had lost close friends and family.

Lambi Fund staff quickly sprang to action and thanks to years of working with local grassroots organizations throughout Haiti, it seemed Lambi Fund was uniquely positioned to provide immediate and effective relief. Partnerships with local organizations that Lambi Fund had been developing for over 16 years served as an essential network during this time.

Lambi Fund convened regional committees of local grassroots leaders throughout the country to determine immediate and long-term needs. Over a half million earthquake survivors fled Port-au-Prince to stay with friends and family in rural Haiti. Household sizes doubled overnight and for Lambi Fund partners already struggling to survive on less than $2 a day, they did not have the means to provide relief.
Based on these discussions, Lambi Fund was able to swiftly distribute emergency grants to 44 grassroots organizations to purchase life essentials like food, water, shelter and medical supplies. In all, 8,000-9,000 people received emergency relief (1,080 families received grants and each family had an average of 8 people).

Mr. Josephat, a member of a community organization in the Artibonite, recalled tearfully:
"I had 21 people, strangers staying with me and my family. We did not think twice about welcoming them, but we had not yet figured out how they would be cared for or how they would be fed.
When we heard about Lambi Fund's program to help impacted families, I was so happy that I cried. I cried because I was touched and shocked that people who had been at the center of this disaster had the time to think about us.

I was so proud to be a member of a strong organization, and I really deeply understood why being organized is the path to a better life. We would have been left to our own devices without Lambi Fund's support.

The government never came and the NGOs which did drop by brought free food supplies and their methods of distribution stripped us of our dignity."

Mr. Josephat’s sentiments were echoed throughout discussions with other partner organizations in Haiti.

“My name is Ostazia. My husband and I have 10 children and we live in the North West. After the January 12, 2010 earthquake which destroyed Port-au-Prince, our household increased by 10 more people. This was extremely problematic as we did not have the means to care for them. It is thanks to my organization and the Lambi Fund that we got the relief we so desperately needed. THANK YOU VERY MUCH, THANK YOU!”

The Next Phase

Knowing that food security and restoring livelihoods for the thousands of survivors now living in rural communities would be essential, Lambi Fund’s second phase of relief focused on expanding crop production and the availability of locally produced food. An emergency credit was provided to 1,254 farmers in 41 partner organizations to allow them to purchase more seeds, tools and supplies to increase crop outputs and feed more families.

Based on reports from farmers, it is projected that about 10,000 persons benefitted from this program. By all accounts, communities generated bountiful harvests of peas, corn and vegetables for consumption and sale at local markets.

In addition, Lambi Fund replenished community microcredit funds to help small business owners purchase more goods and restart their enterprises. Two women’s groups in Port-au-Prince who fight violence against women and provide support for women’s small businesses lost everything in the earthquake. Women and their families have been forced to live in squalid conditions in tent cities. Lambi Fund worked with these women to provide small grants to start small businesses and to send their children back to school.

Looking Towards the Future

Never before has Lambi Fund faced a disaster of such a daunting magnitude and it is thanks to you and your amazing support in this past year that Lambi Fund was able to mobilize and provide such urgent relief. For an extensive breakdown of Lambi Fund’s earthquake relief, I ask you to read the Earthquake Activities Update on our website .

Haitian peasants are determined to be part of their country's reconstruction and thanks to previous Lambi Fund organizational development and capacity building - they are organizationally strong and ready to serve as a collected front to implement change.
In addition to continuing our support of sustainable economic and environmental activities, Lambi Fund has pledged to amplify the voices of the Haitian people and their determination to be included in this historic moment for nation building in Haiti.

In 2011, the Lambi Fund of Haiti is ready to implement the next phases of the Earthquake Recovery Plan:

  • Increase micro-enterprises with additional community microcredit funds.
  • Increase organic, locally-grown food and clean water with expanded sustainable agriculture, reforestation and water access projects.
  • Increase livelihoods with expanded sustainable development projects, such as pig and goat breeding, grain mills and sugar cane mills.
  •  Build latrines to prevent spread of disease and increase sanitation in rural areas, as a result of rapidly growing population.
  • Expand women’s program to address the special needs of women (more vulnerable to domestic violence and sexual assault in tent cities but several organized women’s groups are standing up for the rights of women and children).
  • Support Policy Advocacy program to express voice of the Haitian people in rebuilding Haiti. As foreign corporations and governments jockey for rebuilding contracts, the Haitian voice has been neglected. Haitians must be involved in all facets of rebuilding.
People from rural communities are working together to increase sustainability in their communities and ongoing training in sustainable agriculture, animal husbandry, and increasing organizational capacity will be key to long- term success. The Lambi Fund Earthquake Recovery Plan will continue in 2011 and beyond. Rebuilding Haiti is a long-term commitment for the Lambi Fund and we hope that you choose to take this journey with us. With your continued support, Lambi Fund and the people of Haiti can work to achieve sustainable communities and a vibrant Haiti.

Looking to the future,

Karen Ashmore
Executive Director
Lambi Fund of Haiti