Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Recent Travels to Haiti

By Karen Ashmore

I recently returned from a trip to Haiti and the progress that is happening now in Haiti is positive. First of all, the security situation has improved quite a bit and we were free to travel about the countryside without risk of harm. A big improvement from two years ago!

Grassroots Democracy. The grassroots democracy that Lambi Fund supports is taking hold. Democratic elections have been held and leaders are working together to get Haiti back on the right track. What is exhilarating is the fact that leaders of grassroots organizations that have been through Lambi Fund leadership training are now being elected to office!

In an example of grassroots democracy at work, the president of a grassroots partner of Lambi Fund was elected Mayor of the town of Chato, located in the South.

Joseph Fluto Clairvil, President of Konbit 2004, was elected the mayor of Chato earlier this year. Konbit 2004 is managing a large scale reforestation project as well as a large network of rainwater cisterns to provide safe drinking water to the area. The newly elected mayor is planning to bring his awareness of reforestation needs to the government by pushing for more enforcement of the "no tree cutting" policy and more governmental support for reforestation. This is an example of how growing democratic leadership through Lambi Fund training is going to change Haiti.

Gender Equity. Another exciting development I saw was the explosive growth of women in leadership positions. Women are vying for leadership positions in organizations and communities all over Haiti. Every organization we met with had women as elected officers. This was a changed scenario since my last visit two years ago. I was especially excited to meet Anaise Alcena Saintius, who is the first female president of a co-ed organization that I have met in Haiti. She is president of t heAssociation for the Development of Kasis (ADZK), which is managing a successful pig breeding enterprise in partnership with Lambi Fund.
Here is what she said about her experience: "I was born to a peasant family in Kasis, strong hard working, but knowing that as a woman my duties were exclusively those of wife and mother. When I was given the opportunity to meet with other women(through Lambi Fund Women's Leadership Conference) to discuss the need for us peasant women to take greater leadership roles in our communities and within our organization, I knew that I had what it took to be a leader. I had been one all my life. I just never applied those skills within the organization. When I came back I did not waste any time and became more active with ADZK. I applied the same work ethic I use running my farm and raising my children, empowered by the administrative skills I had acquired through the Lambi Fund's skill building workshop on project management.
I was recently elected president of the organization, the first woman ever in Kasis to hold such important office. While I am respected for my administrative skills and my ability to manage the project, one of my proudest accomplishments, is that I am encouraging and mentoring other women members to become more active in the organization and seek leadership positions as well."
Everywhere I went, I met women who are excited about opportunities to lead Haiti to a stronger future. Haitian women have always been considered the potomiten or center pole of the community. But now they are at the threshold of taking on substantive leadership roles in Haiti, with great excitement and enthusiasm.
Improved economic conditions.The communities with grassroots organization partnering with Lambi Fund made marked improvements in economic conditions and quality of life. For example, groups with sustainable development projects for the first time were able to afford to feed their families and send their children to school. Girls who lived in communities with local water cisterns financed by Lambi Fund could now attend school. No longer did they miss school in order to walk long distances to carry water. And children are no longer dying from an illness due to bad water. The impact is remarkable!

Progress towards reforestation. Thanks to your support we are moving forward with our collaboration with the Greenbelt Movement, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner, Wangari Maathai. In October of this year, a group of women from the highly successful Greenbelt Movement will be traveling to Haiti to offer the training and technical assistance based on their thirty years of experience. This is an exciting moment for Haiti, taking the grassroots reforestation of Lambi Fund to the next level.

Still a long way to go. Although we encountered many success stories, there are still many more communities and grassroots organizations asking for Lambi Fund to support their ideas for self-sustainability. I saw numerous children with red-tinged hair, a sure sign of malnourishment. With our meager budget we are only able to partner with a limited number of grassroots organizations. With your major support, we would be able to partner with more rural communities in Haiti who are on their way to a hopeful future.
Please consider making a "stretch" gift that stretches your pocketbook but will make a tremendous difference in the lives if Haitians who are seeking dignity and self-respect. I live in Colorado but our organization is headquartered in DC. A loyal donor is matching every donation so you can double the impact of your donation on families that live on less than $1 a day. Send donations to PO Box 18955, Washington DC 20036. More info at

The Lambi Fund of Haiti works because of its unique bottom-up collaborative approach that is different from the top-down approach of many charities. The Lambi Fund's original, grassroots development model succeeds because it relies on Haitians themselves to determine the needs and the most effective solutions in each community. The Lambi Fund's emphasis on democracy, a community's actual needs, and peasant-led solutions ensures more successful outcomes.

PS We are planning a delegation to Haiti the week of Nov. 12. If you are interested in traveling with us to Haiti and seeing firsthand the amazing work of peasant organizations in Haiti, email I look forward to personally sharing with you the people and sights I have enjoyed in Haiti.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Day Four of First Visit to Haiti

March 21, 2007 Maniche, Haiti

…We drove to a remote spot where there were a few shacks on the mountainside
and walked to a meeting area where the members of the organization called
ADZK were singing and clapping as loud as they could…I took pictures of the
kids again with the digital camera and then let them look at them on the
screen. It seems to be a good way to interact after we get past "what is
your name?" and "mwen pa pale Kreyol" [I don't speak Creole].  I wonder how
many of these kids have seen their picture before.  Lambi funded and trained
the group for a pig breeding project.  They had 25 new piglets so far.  A
woman said, "Pigs allow us to live, that is the way we take care of our kids
and all of our needs."… There are good things happening in Haiti.

Day Two of First Visit to Haiti

March 19, 2007 Chato Haiti

Today we visited a peasant organization that called themselves Konbit 2004.
When we drove to the top of the hillside, there was already a large circle
of people sitting beneath the semicircle of palm trees singing and clapping.
A woman brought a thermos of coffee and basket of bread for us to eat.  The
coffee was so sweet I think I became a diabetic after one sip.  We sat and
listened to the members of the organization describe their group's history
as we slurped coconut milk out of coconuts that had given to us.  A man
said, "We wanted to organize and work together in such a way that we could
improve the living conditions of our group."  It was very powerful to hear
the men and women of the group speak about how their lives had changed after
the microcredit and the cistern  and reforestation project…We drove to see
one of the cisterns and the tree seedling nursery and the man I was sitting
next to in the back seat didn't know how to open a car door.  This was a
poignant reminder of how different our existences are on this earth.  One
woman summed up everyone's comments about the projects stating "It [the loan
fund] helped us send our kids to school and feed them, the cistern allows us
to have time because we no longer have to walk 2 hrs to get water."  The
group estimated that because of the micro-loan project around 100 more
children were able to go to school.

First Visit to Haiti

By Matt Kaiser

I was able to visit Haiti for the first time in March to visit a few of the
organizations Lambi Fund works with in the Les Cayes area.  It is hard for
me to imagine what daily life is like under the impoverished conditions of
Haiti, but that is not the story here.  One can read a newspaper to keep up
with the bad news in Haiti.  When I boarded the plane to leave Haiti, I left
with a deeper respect for the Haitian people, confidence that the work Lambi
Fund does truly empowers people to improve lives, and hope that this work
and its effects will continue to spread in Haiti.

The following are a few excerpts from a journal I kept during our visit in March:

March 18, 2007 Camp Perrin, Haiti

…the flight from Miami took only an hour and a half.  It's like the
newspaper headlines I've read about Haiti have come to life, like I just
jumped into the photograph of Port-au-Prince that was in the NY Times' last
article about the UN in Haiti. As we left the city, the mountainous
countryside came into a panoramic view that was absolutely gorgeous. Green
mountains falling into the sea that reflected all shades of blue.  Then I
noticed that parts of some of the mountains were missing where abrupt white
cliffs interrupted the continuity of the green hills. These were the sites
of mudslides that washed away Haitian's fields and homes.  This was my first
glimpse at the deforestation I've read and heard so much about…The drive
from the airport to where we are staying is unreal.  The sights cannot be
fully captured by words.  The road was an endless stream of motorbikes,
bicycles, children, women on their way back from the market, chickens,
goats, mules, and the occasional tap tap, a small pickup used for public
transportation with people clinging to all sides. Despite all I've read
about this country and causes of poverty, it's still hard to understand how
something like this could happen. I'm looking forward to visiting projects
tomorrow and hearing the people's stories of good things happening here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Lambi Fund of Haiti Appoints New Deputy Director

March 14, 2007 — Leonie Hermantin was named Deputy Director by Lambi Fund of Haiti, where she will be responsible for outreach and education in North America and Haiti. Formerly the Director of Research and Strategic Planning at the Santa La Haitian Neighborhood Center in Miami, FL, Hermantin was one of two Haitian Americans cited by the Miami Herald for special recognition as up and coming leaders in South Florida. She has a Juris Doctor from University of California, Berkeley, and over ten years of non-profit management experience. She currently serves on the board of Little Haiti Housing and Accion USA, Miami, and has received numerous awards for her activism and civic contributions. 

The Lambi Fund's mission is to assist the popular, democratic movement in Haiti. Lambi Fund works in partnership with rural grassroots peasant organizations to support economic justice, democracy and sustainable development in Haiti.

Monday, February 05, 2007

How are things in Haiti?

 Jan 2007

By Josette Perard

As you already know, governments in Haiti do not fulfill their institutional role. Thus, Haitian society is left alone to now deal with all sorts of crises. The symptoms (of that deep crisis) are visible everywhere: permanent political instability; mounting controversies within the state institutions (Parliament – Police – CEP); a suffocating form of misery that has engulfed the general population; constantly mounting inflation; a staggering 70 percent of the population out of work; a panicked middle class; the technical cadre of the country leaving in droves; armed groups rendering the country unsafe with their misdeeds: kidnappings, rape, and assassinations. In less than three months, armed bands burned as many as three public markets in the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

The year 2006 ended deplorably!!

Government officials are still making beautiful speeches, promising plenty but yet, they are still unable or unwilling to face head on the current conjuncture (reality) in order to earn the confidence of the overall population.

As for the economy, there is a gap between what government is offering and the real needs of the population. The Project “HOPE” for Haiti, as approved by the U.S. Congress, is nothing more than an attempt to reinvigorate the Assembly Industry, or it is at least the same ideas of pushing forth the garment industry in Haiti, but now rearranged, corrected in the Neo-liberal Political Context. In other words, government officials have no plans of their own to get the country off the underdevelopment road.

The International Community, represented it in-country through its own institutions, only want one single thing done: for the current Haitian government to strictly adhere to its “Structural Adjustment Program”.

The only raison d’ĂȘtre for MINUSTHA in Haiti is to prevent the class contradictions in Haiti to implode resulting in uncontrollable violence. MINUSTHA has succeeded in putting the armed bands on the defensive; they have not been able to uproot them however, because the problems of armed bands are not simply military. You can find this same type of violence, now enveloping Haiti, in countries like Jamaica, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, and Colombia. Why? Because the same causes produce the same results. When MINUSTHA attacks poor neighborhoods to get rid of bandits, even if they find a few among those, they also make many innocent victims within the civilian population. The problems however remain intact, unresolved.

We understand that life, for the civilian population, is extremely difficult in this context. During the holiday period, even before schools were closed for the Christmas holidays in Haiti, parents kept their children home because the spike in kidnappings was indiscriminate, with even school children as such victims. Many schools were forced to close their doors before the prescribed holiday vacation period in December. Schools reopened their doors in January. However, even if the security situation has improved a bit, both parents and their school children are experiencing paralyzing fear.

Poverty, found everywhere, forced the poorest to function in what is known as “the Informal Economy”. In reality, it’s an economy of subsistence where the poor little merchant sells goods like avocado, oranges, cosmetic products, etc..., in the middle of the streets. These kinds of economic activity do not bring much positive changes in the poor man’s life.

And now … it’s the Carnival season… it’s like a dose of vaccine, with the drum playing its role of helping the masses forget about their misery and desperation.

Every Sunday thousands, if not millions, of young men and women take to the streets, in urban and rural areas throughout the country to sing and dance as though they were trying to bypass, forget about their miserable conditions.

In other places, in rural communities, concerned individuals and citizens get together trying to fight this abject poverty. Organizations that the Lambi Fund supports have not stopped the fight to obtain their rights. The organizations that are part of this struggle are only getting stronger. Once more, the members of these organizations say loudly: Haiti will not die! Things have to change! But change will only happen from the grasroots up. Lambi Fund partners with grassroots organizations in Haiti to support the economic and social empowerment of Haitian people. Through the grasroots, true change will happen.