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.