Tuesday, December 03, 2013

#GivingTuesday is Here!

Today is the day! The 2nd ever #GivingTuesday is here and we hope you join us in taking part.  Not only is #GivingTuesday a great way to jumpstart the giving spirit of the holidays, but starting at 11am EST, all donations will be matched by the Case foundation up to $60,000.

So don't delay, donate now and double your impact! Last year, the Lambi Fund of Haiti raised $1,500 on #GivingTuesday.  Can you help us DOUBLE this?   Click here to make a contribution.

Together, through simple actions like these, we can take small steps towards building a better world for each and every one of us.  Here at the Lambi Fund of Haiti we are excited to take part in #GivingTuesday, because it encourages each and every one of us to take time out from the hustle and bustle of the holidays, to give with an open heart and to celebrate generosity.

Good tidings and good cheer from my family to yours,
Sarah Leavitt
Outreach Manager
The Lambi Fund of Haiti

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Building an Equitable Haiti From the Grassroots Up: Annual 4-Day Conference Convenes

By Sarah Leavitt

They traveled by dusty dirt roads, through the mountains, on the back of a moto-taxi, crammed into the back of a colorful tap-tap and many walked a good part of the journey. In all, 36 leaders of grassroots organizations arrived in Ennery, Haiti eager and excited—albeit a bit tired—but ready to begin their training. Nine partner organizations with the Lambi Fund of Haiti were present and the participants were young and old, male and female—20 women and 16 men in all. These grassroots leaders are Haiti's hardworking farmers, enterprising female merchants and upcoming youth that are pouring their blood and sweat into changing Haiti for the better—and they came to attend Lambi Fund's 2013 conference for the Artibonite region on civic education, gender equity and how to lead more democratic organizations.
Lambi Fund photoClearly, this was quite an ambitious agenda for just four days. So, early on September 9th, after sitting down for a communal meal of eggs, bananas, piping hot coffee and bread rolls, Lambi Fund's facilitators got straight to work.

Civic Education & Human Rights:

Day one had the task of providing an introductory course on civic education in Haiti. This included a brief history on slavery, Haiti's independence, and democracy today. Discussions of what it means to be a citizen, a citizen's role in society and the rights of a citizen were all covered.
"[Before this training,] I didn't know what gender equity was. I used to hear people talk about it, but I never quite understood what they meant."
For most, this was their first formal discussion about what it meant to be a citizen of Haiti and what rights and responsibilities accompany being a citizen. Voting and participating in Haiti's democracy and advocating for certain changes in their community are all part of being an engaged citizen. There was a lot of talk about participating, speaking up when things are going wrong and being proud of Haiti and its flag.
Part of this included discussing each person's human and civil rights – the right to food, a home, security, health and an education.
An engaged young man and member of OPMO, emphatically stated, “This training is working us up so that we can go home and change things.” After discussing Haitians' rights and responsibilities as citizens, another responded, "The development should come from us. Only this will happen when we step up." A woman from APEAG said, "Before this education, I didn't know anything about these topics at all. Now I know much more and understand how we should strive to live and the type of country we can and should be."

Gender Equity:

Next on the agenda was discussing the imbalance of men and women in society. By default, many participants assumed that their homes and organizations are models of equality, yet as the trainers delved deeper into what it means to have equality, several interesting topics arose.
The workshop facilitators
From the get-go, there was a consensus that women are just as good as men and that they should have the same rights. Once trainers explored this a bit more and teased out what equality means within the context of society, interesting discussions emerged.
For instance, there was a lot of discussion about the unfair burden of work that falls on a Haitian woman's shoulders. She must cook, clean the house, fetch water, watch after the children, tend the fields, wash clothes, go to the mill to have their grains milled, and then find time to go to market to buy and sell goods. Participants recognized that a man, however, will come home, say he is hungry and demand that dinner be ready. He never offers to help with the meal if she is overwhelmed with work because that is "woman's work."
Many laughed at the thought of a man helping his wife prepare a meal, but when it was shared that women often eat the remaining scraps in another room or forgo meals altogether to feed their husbands and boys, many nodded as they acknowledged the unspoken practice. Throughout Haiti, women face much higher rates of malnutrition.
One woman from APEAG was especially inspired with this discussion. She stated, "[Before this training,] I didn't know what gender equity was. I used to hear people talk about it, but I never quite understood what they meant. Now I know that it's not about just holding our organizations to this standard. Although I have more boys than girls, four boys and one girl, I used to put all the weight of the chores on my girl and me. She had to carry the water, help with cooking and cleaning and now I know I can spread out the chores more evenly."
Solange Michelle from OPMO declared, "From now on, when I cook for my husband, I'm going to make two plates - one for me and one for him. I'm not going to eat scraps out of the bowl in the corner anymore…and if there aren't two pieces we both won't eat or we'll share."
The discussion then moved past the home to discuss women's place in society – the clothes they are expected to wear, how their hair should look, the tendency to send boys to school over girls, and how women are represented in society. Clearly these are diverse topics with deeply embedded social undertones, yet most participants agreed that women should look, act, and behave in a way that is "feminine," while males are expected to be "strong" and "brave."
One of the older men in the group said, "Women are taking big and important posts [in society and the government] and this is something we need to continue to work on for the next 5, 10, 55, years so that we see more of this."
By no means does Lambi Fund think that the few days set aside to discuss the imbalance of women in society will radically transform or magically create communities throughout Haiti that are equitable for both men and women, but one can be certain that seeds of change were planted and some social norms that had never before been questioned are now being looked at in a different light. Perhaps the most hopeful statement was from a young woman from ACHVRO, "This training was especially important in regards to gender equity. I don't have a family yet, but now I know how I should balance my family when I do."

Leading Democratic Organizations:

The last and final component of Lambi Fund's training was providing the participants with practical tools to return home and share this information with their organization members. Methods of “animation” or group singing, role-playing, and dancing - which are common activities in Haitian grassroots organizations, were covered.
Conference attendees participating in a breakout session
Vita, one of the trainers, taught participants new songs and showed the grassroots leaders how to educate and share certain topics through animation. In addition, a great deal of time was spent covering what types of characteristics make a leader democratic and what makes a leader authoritarian. In that same regard, members shared what kind of practices within organizations actively include and exclude its members.
Both the trainers and participants also reflected on what makes up a truly inclusive and democratic organization and they shared with one another how to lead meetings that are efficient and productive. It is hoped, that as a result of this training, these participants who are leaders of organizations in their community will return home with a new found sense of motivation. Beyond acquiring some tools and techniques for making their organizations stronger, hopefully, these leaders will relay some of the concepts discussed.
Quite possibly they will become advocates for certain rights and issues in their communities, use the network of leaders they met at the training as resources and allies and maybe, just maybe, these grassroots organizations will begin to see the strength in working collectively and in valuing each person as an equal. Here's to the next chapter in Haiti.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

We Need Your Help! Help Lambi Fund Raise $75,000

Today is the day!  CrowdRise’s #STARTARYOT Challenge has begun and the Lambi Fund of Haiti wants you to take part.  First things first, Crowdrise and RYOT, a news website that lets you take action on every story you read, teamed up to launch this exciting fundraising campaign. They're giving away $200,000 in cash prizes to causes like Lambi Fund.

How does it work?  The organization that raises the most throughout the challenge will receive $75,000 from RYOT. Second place gets $50,000 and third gets $25,000. This is big stuff and Lambi Fund is out to raise as much money as possible so that we can win the
$75,000 grand prize donation.

We are confident we can do it, yet it won’t be easy and we need your help!

Donate now by clicking here and give whatever you can.  Large or small it all adds up and makes a BIG difference in Haiti.

Or, if you want to go one step further and win some great prizes, 
Go Here and click 'Fundraise for this team'  In seconds, you'll have your own fundraiser that you can share with all of your family and friends so that you can raise money for the Lambi Fund of Haiti too.

By becoming a top fundraiser you can win:
  • VIP passes to the Global Citizen Festival in NY
  • An assortment of Lambi Fund gear and apparel (for the top 3 Lambi Fund fundraisers)
  • The top Lambi Fund fundraiser will win a piece of hand-crafted, Haitian metal art 
Thanks so much for your support and please let me know if you have any questions, comments or concerns – and of course please #STARTARYOT and help get the word out!

Together we can.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pssst...Did You Know These Women are Building a Vibrant Economy?

I was reading through a recent project report for the Association of Women in Action of Gwomon (AFAGM) and it was chock-full of so many great nuggets that I just had to share some highlights with you.

First off, these women partnered with the Lambi Fund of Haiti to expand their community credit fund.   In order to prepare the organization to successfully manage and issue loans to its members, a series of training workshops took place.


Following these workshops, Lambi Fund provided 250,000 Haitian Gourdes to increase the current fund’s lending capacity.

Now, AFAGM is preparing to issue its second cycle of loans to members.  

It is results like these that make me a steadfast believer in Lambi Fund's work.  Through holistic approaches that provide training and financial resources to partner organizations, institutions are set in place that benefit hardworking Haitians time and again and not just in one-and-done scenarios.

Moreover, Lambi Fund’s program staff is gearing up to launch AFAGM’s second phase of the community credit fund expansion where even more capital will be infused into the fund and these women will have the capacity to issue even more loans to enterprising merchants.  Cheers to that

Friday, June 28, 2013

Deforestation in Haiti is Real and So is Reforestation

28 June 2013 - In February, I traveled to Haiti to meet with several of Lambi Fund's partners.  As we drove through the countryside, I was struck with the gut-wrenching rate of deforestation in the country. This was the pit-in-your-stomach kind of despair that comes with seeing a serious problem like deforestation on such a large scale.

The mountains were barren and soil erosion is severe.  As we drove through the Artibonite region, I felt as though I could be driving through the Southwest in the US.  I kept telling myself, "I am on a tropical island.  This desert I see before me is not correct.  The hilly mountains of Haiti should be lush and green" - yet they are not.

Despite this reality, I still have hope.  This photo showing the juxtaposition of deforestation and reforestation in Haiti is very real.

I have had the privilege to sit and talk with members of grassroots organizations who are working to plant thousands of trees throughout the country.  They are fiercely passionate about reforestation and see the direct correlation of abundant trees in their community and their well-being.  And while, it takes several years to see the fruits of their labor take root (pardon my pun), this is the newer and greener Haiti that is possible.  I know it is possible because it is happening as we speak - and I have seen it.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Member Profile: Lesange Henry

I am the president of the Coordination of Peasants of Mark (KPM). KPM is an organization that has existed for over 30 years and spans across five different localities. As an organization, we have planted over 100,000 trees, built 31 family rainwater cisterns, and launched numerous projects in the community.
In 1999, KPM partnered with Lambi Fund on a reforestation project that produced 55,000 seedlings. In that project we were very successful—90% have grown into full, mature trees. If you look around at these hills, the trees are a result of that 55,000. Unfortunately though, there has not been 100% survival because we Haitians live under very arduous conditions. Sometimes, in order to get food, a tree has to be cut down to sell for charcoal—we have no other alternative. If this becomes the case, we try to stress that members just cut a branch or so, not the entire tree. This ensures that the tree can keep on living and producing for our community.
In our newest project with Lambi Fund, KPM is working to plant 100,000 seedlings. We need to do this project to progress ourselves. We live on this land and every time there is a natural disaster, there is major destruction. If we allow the mountain to deteriorate, the water will one day not find land and will wash us away. We are trying to prevent landslides and save our local environment.
Since seedlings are like kids, the attendants go where the seedlings are planted to take care of them and make sure they grow. They monitor them. A tree is your child, your future. This is an investment and you must protect it. When I walk in my community and I see a tree from KPM, I am proud.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Bonjou Zanmi!

By Kate Dill
When the entire Lambi Fund of Haiti team traveled together in February to meet a few of our partners in the South, Nippes and Artibonite Departments, the trip was also my first time in Haiti.
The visit allowed me to witness firsthand the challenges that the Haitian people face, but it also reinforced my strongly held belief that grassroots organizations provide a critical space for community members to identify shared challenges and devise solutions.
For those who have not had the opportunity to travel to Haiti, I know that you do not have to search long to read accounts of the extreme poverty that exists there. Thus, I will not dwell on it here longer than to say, as someone who has traveled elsewhere in the developing world, I still find it incredibly difficult to witness the hurdles such a taxing environment raises in people's daily lives.
However, I choose to focus on the many wonderful memories I have traveling throughout Haiti—a truly unique country. If someone asks me in ten years what my first impressions driving around the country were, I know that the street vendors and vibrant, colorful marketplaces will immediately come to mind. All sorts of goods were sold in the street markets, ranging from clothing to vegetables and tropical fruits.
I frequently observed two vendors selling the exact same items right next to each other, and I became curious how they make a living selling their products. A member of our partner organization Women in Action in GwoMon (AFAGM) later told me that each vendor has her regular customers. She takes orders, travels four hours in a crowded tap-tap to Port-au-Prince to purchase her goods, and then returns to GwoMon to deliver the orders and sell the remaining merchandise on the street. With this money, she is able to feed her family and send her children to school.
This is an example of how people in Haiti are working hard to survive and create opportunities for their families. It is also indicative of how important it is to talk to people to really understand what their daily lives are like.
The people I came into contact with during my stay inspired me to ask how my efforts can more effectively support my colleagues in Haiti and Lambi Fund's partner organizations as they undertake the truly challenging and courageous work of improving their communities, creating opportunities for themselves and future generations and doing so in a way that restores and sustains the environment.
Our visit to the Association of Youth in Saint Martin for Community Development (AJSDC) provides an example of the power of organizations to move their communities forward. AJSDC approached Lambi Fund with a proposal to install a rice mill in their community. Lambi Fund toured the area and, observing that corn and millet were common crops, suggested that AJSDC instead purchase a standard cereal mill. AJSDC agreed, purchased and installed the mill, and began operations, serving the entire community.
Using revenue generated by the grain mill, AJSDC made two strategic purchases: (1) a sorting machine that separates the processed grains from dust and foreign particles, making the output a more desirable product, and (2) a used rice mill, which they put into service a few months after the grain mill opened.
All three machines are located in the same space, creating a central location for women to come and process all of their grains at once.
Our conversation with AJSDC revealed not only that they took initiative to grow the services they provide to the community, but also that they think creatively to identify problems and formulate solutions that responsibly address those problems. AJSDC is evidence of grassroots organizations' capacity for innovation and self-determination, and I feel lucky to have met them.
This project is a reminder that Lambi Fund has much to gain from our partnership with rural grassroots groups. We are constantly learning from them and using those lessons to inform how we support new projects and evolve Lambi Fund's programmatic focus areas.
On my last full day in Haiti, we drove from the relatively quiet city of Ennery in the Artibonite back to hectic Port-au-Prince. The drive afforded me one more glimpse of all the activity that goes on every day in Haiti.
We passed expansive rice fields, where groups of neighbors were working together to care for each other's crops. We saw denuded mountainsides, stripped of all but a few trees and bushes. We drove through Saint-Marc, where people played on the beach and frolicked in the water.
We passed a funeral procession, and children walking to school, and women carrying huge loads in baskets on their heads. We saw people washing laundry in dirty rivers or bringing heavy containers of water from the nearest well back to their homes. All this, and much more, happens every day in Haiti.
As I reflect on all that I saw during my trip, I am reminded that, though Haiti is a complex place, life there goes on. I spend much of my time in the US talking about the major challenges the country faces, of which there are many, and it sometimes feels overwhelming. But my trip reminded me that the Haitian people are survivors.
Kate walking up the mountainous hillside to meet with KPM
With that in mind, the road ahead does not seem so daunting.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Vulnerabilities Continue to Impact Farming in Haiti: An Update on Post-Sandy Relief in Haiti

By Sarah Leavitt

It was a warm, sunny day in Les Cayes, Haiti. The city was bustling with activity – merchants hustling to sell their merchandise, moto taxis weaving in and out of traffic and school children with their cleanly pressed uniforms walking to and from school. Amidst this hustle and bustle, representatives from 14 grassroots organizations throughout southern Haiti filed into an airy meeting room. They were there to discuss life since October with the Lambi Fund of Haiti.
Last October, just before Hurricane Sandy moved on to batter the eastern coast of the United States, the storm cycle hit Haiti with days of unrelenting rain. While the brunt of the storm sidestepped the island, rains pounded the South for four days straight, resulting in widespread crop damage and loss of livestock. Haiti's Ministry of Agriculture estimated that 70-90% of planted agricultural crops were lost, resulting in severe food security concerns.
With these dire prospects in mind, Lambi Fund field staff mobilized 14 grassroots organizations to assess damage and to determine how best to respond.
Grassroots leader sharing with Lambi Fund his community's
woes Post-Sandy
As a result, emergency relief grants were provided to each of the organizations to purchase seeds and fertilizers needed to replant crops, to repair damaged irrigation canals and to replace animals lost in the storm. Now, on this sunny day in late February, Lambi Fund staff met with representatives from each of these organizations to discuss the impact of these relief grants.
A member of AFDL explained, "The emergency relief was an opportunity for us. Sandy was during the planting season, so we weren't prepared to repair the land. With this money we re-tilled the land. We planted again. Now we have corn, nuts, and black beans… we have begun harvesting." Another said that, "Lambi Fund provided support to our members when they weren't sure how they were going to undo the mess of Sandy. They helped us replant and start again."
As Lambi Fund staff sat and listened while representatives shared with the group how the emergency relief grants were used, it quickly became apparent that several vulnerabilities were making it difficult for farmers to move forward.
As an elderly member of ODRO shared with the group, "I remember when I was young hurricanes really shook the country - they were a rarity. At the age of 25 I'd only experienced two hurricanes. Now, we have them almost every year. I can tell you that Haitians are not a lazy group of people. Unfortunately though, it seems that every year there is an event that shakes the country more and more. The rains, the sun, the cholera… every event in our country is a hurricane."

Farming Difficulties Continue

The most troublesome news was that it has not rained since Hurricane Sandy. At the time of the meeting, it had been four straight months without rainfall. A member of TK-Bedo said, "After every hurricane there is a major drought. The land is dry and hard." He continued on to explain that, "When there is rain, it is guaranteed to flood. In January, everyone was ready to plant, but there was no rain. We continue to wait and wait and the rain never comes."
Crops in Haiti
One after another, grassroots leaders shared their woes regarding the drought. It seems that organizations located in areas near a river or with irrigation fared much better. Members were able to take the emergency relief grants, purchase seeds, make repairs and replant.
For those less fortunate organizations with no means to water their crops aside from rainfall, the outcomes were not as significant. Most were waiting to plant their crops until the rain arrived.
These types of circumstances are typical in Haiti. Living a life of poverty leaves Haitians open to numerous vulnerabilities. A degraded environment from years of deforestation leaves the soil devoid of nutrients essential for growing bountiful crops. Climate change is bringing unpredictable growing seasons and lowering crop yields. Farmers that lack access to irrigation canals and water pumps are at the mercy and unreliability of rainfall. High interest loans with untenable loan requirements tie hardworking Haitians to a never ending cycle of debt.
It is a compounding of circumstances like these that has lessened the overall impact of Lambi Fund's emergency relief. While the Lambi Fund of Haiti clearly would have desired to see more marked impacts, this meeting has required the organization to take a long, hard look at its efforts and realize that life in Haiti is changing. Each and every day life gets harder and the multitude of struggles that rural Haitians face continues to mount. 
Members of OFJ in front of one of their goat pens
This hard reality is what makes Lambi Fund's partnerships with grassroots organizations so important. As an organization, Lambi Fund realizes that it will never have, nor should it have the capacity to address the myriad of issues that leave communities vulnerable and make development in Haiti difficult. It is in the face of these vulnerabilities, however, that Lambi Fund recognizes the ever present importance of communities uniting, working together and calling on the government to make changes that will benefit the greater whole of society.
This is why Lambi Fund's work to strengthen organizational capacities and teach civil rights is an irreplaceable part of its efforts. Providing communities with the tools they need to respond to changing needs, problem solve and advocate for change in their community will be an integral part to advancing Haitian's quality of life.
"The rains, the sun, the cholera…every event in our country is a hurricane"
Take the Women's Organization of Jabwen (OFJ). Every year there is an event that shakes the country more and more. A member said, "At first, our husbands would always ask, ‘Why are you part of that organization? It takes up too much time.' Then we became partners with Lambi Fund [for goat breeding efforts] and they began to see our projects and the impact. Now our husbands will ask, ‘What are you doing home? Go to your meeting!' They see the value of our work and want to be organized too."
Organizations like OFJ are an exemplary model of what can be done when communities unite and go beyond the work of an individual. This group has gone beyond just this project to launch numerous efforts that are working to strengthen the community. When organizations like OFJ transcend unitary efforts to address a number of initiatives, the true power of being united is realized.
So, in the short-term, as communities continue to recover from the impacts of Hurricane Sandy, the true rebuilding continues as local organizations work to improve their communities and strengthen their voice.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Happy World Water Day!

Are you one of the lucky ones that got water out of the tap this morning without thinking about it?  780 million people lack access to clean water.  That's more than 2 and 1/2 times the U.S. population.

Women and children spend hours of their day trekking to retrieve water and dirty water causes a myriad of illnesses.  In fact, 3.4 million people die from water related diseases each year.  These are preventable diseases!

Let's work to change this!  Join the Lambi Fund of Haiti as we work this World Water Day to improve clean water access in Haiti.  

Friday, January 11, 2013

Looking Back: Three Years Later

Tomorrow is the day that marks three years since the earthquake shook the ground we walk on and forever changed the face of Haiti.  While it is much easier to look at the stumbles, falls and steps backwards that have been taken since the earthquake, I am thinking differently.  I am thinking instead about cumulative gain.

In spite of it all, when I look at the Lambi Fund of Haiti’s programs and talk with Lambi Fund’s program partners, I see progress and I see hope.

I see an organization that has more than doubled its projects since 2010.  I see communities that have transformed the way they care for their environment.  I see farmers growing more food and I see small merchants increasing their incomes and providing for their families.

In the past three years, Lambi Fund has worked hand-in-hand with 32 grassroots organizations and over 6,100 members throughout Haiti to provide them with not only the tools and resources they need to get back on their feet, but to help build a solid foundation for years to come.  

When you take the time to zoom in and look at specific communities and families, you will find substantial efforts that indicate change is coming.  Since the earthquake:
  • Three grain mills have been built that are providing entire communities with low-cost and high-quality milling services.  These mills have become commercial centers in their communities and 708 members of local organizations are working to manage and maintain the mills so that they are open for years to come.
  • Five ox-plow services have been launched that are plowing more land and increasing crop outputs - benefiting 276 members and numerous farmers in their communities.
  • Five goat breeding projects are being managed by 900 organization members who built pens, fenced in grazing areas, and learned how to breed the animals for a reliable source of income.
  • 634 members built three grain storage and seed banks that are allowing communities to store grains for the offseason and to sell local and organic seeds to farmers.
  • 17 community credit funds have been created impacting more than 2,200 members.  These locally managed funds are providing low-interest loans to rural Haitians so that they can invest in small-business enterprises and purchase more seeds and tools so that they can grow more food.
  • One tool bank was established providing 50 members and nearby locals with access to tools needed for farmers to work their fields more efficiently.
  • 44 members worked with Lambi Fund to launch one sheep breeding enterprise, which is allowing families to steadily increase their incomes.
  • In partnership with Lambi Fund, 89 members built and are managing a sugar cane mill that is transforming abundant sugarcane crops into more lucrative sugarcane syrup.
  • Three coffee cooperatives are enabling 1,548 members to grow more coffee and to process the beans into market-ready coffee.
  • 32 grassroots organizations have worked with Lambi Fund to build community-led nurseries and have planted hundreds of thousands of tree seedlings throughout Haiti’s countryside.
  • One irrigation canal is providing 150 farmers in an arid region of the country with a consistent source of water for their crops.
Despite these incredible triumphs, our work is by no means finished.  Everyone at Lambi Fund is looking forward to 2013 with newfound determination.  While we believe the tangible outcomes of these projects like increased incomes are important, it is the strengthening coalition of grassroots organizations that is slowly changing the tide.  Entire communities are seeing that they have the capacity, know-how and will to successfully manage community-led enterprises.   Through this, Haitians are realizing that, together, anything is possible. 

And with that, I leave you with this call to action in 2013: may we work harder, come together more than ever before and strive to build a Haiti that is just, fair and rich in love.  Let us do this in the name and remembrance of all loved ones lost on that fateful day on January 12, 2010.

Marie Marthe Saint Cyr
Executive Director
The Lambi Fund of Haiti