Our Community Development Model
Haiti Outreach has developed and operates with this four-point community development model in order to have the projects in which we engage be long-term and sustainable. Our goal is to assist the people to help materialize what they need, provide coaching and training so that a competent management team is in place, make sure that they have an open and public handling of the money required to maintain the project, and then turn it over to them. The points are:
1) the request for assistance comes from the community and not from us; we don’t tell them what they need; they tell us.
2) they must organize, with our assistance, and participate in all levels of planning, including bringing any resources they have or can generate to help create the project.
3) the group responsible for the project must be a cross-section of the community, and the project must benefit the community, not just a particular section or group.
4) there must be an economically viable maintenance plan established that will be managed by the community group, with shared oversight and transparency for the collection and expenditure of the funds used for maintenance and repair.
Development vs Relief
We believe that what distinguishes our organization from most non-profits operating in Haiti is that we require community participation and responsibility throughout the entire life of any project, from beginning to end, and then beyond. We require the community groups to use an economic system – a community savings account to which all users contribute and from which future repairs can be paid – to sustain these projects so that they are not dependent on us for their maintenance. Even though most people are very poor, they pay something for the services they receive, and these funds are saved and monitored publicly, with transparency, and used as needed for the project’s upkeep.
Operating in a way that fosters true “development” is very different from the “relief” model of operating in a poor, developing country. In the relief model, goods and services are given to people, with little or no responsibility being taken on their part. They are not trained to provide these goods or services for themselves, and there is little incentive for them to do so. The end result is a dependency on the provider for as long as they are willing to continue their giving.
Certainly relief has its place, when a natural or man-made disaster hits and people’s very survival is at stake. But relief is not development. Development requires people to become responsible and take over the provision of the good or service themselves. Many organizations in Haiti think they are providing development, but when their activities are closely examined, they are essentially providing relief. This results in an even greater dependency on the aid agencies and can even inhibit development. It is the distinction, as the old Chinese proverb goes, between giving a man a fish, so that he will eat for a day, or teaching him to fish, so that he will eat for a lifetime.
In the last two decades, billions of dollars have been sent to Haiti by countless individuals, by many NGO’s, and have been granted to the government. Yet when you look around the country, there seems to be very little to show for it. Why is that? We believe it is because many organizations, however well-intentioned, are providing “relief” instead of doing the work of “development”, and in many cases creating greater dependency which is counter-productive to Haiti becoming a developed nation.
While Haiti Outreach typically is not involved in relief efforts, when disasters occur, we are often well positioned to provide some aid until relief agencies can get to the disaster site. When hurricanes lead to major floods, for example, we are able to bring potable water to the victims using our water trucks that are normally used in our well drilling. We also suspended our routine projects and did whatever we could to help during the first few months after the earthquake in January of 2010. We provide such humanitarian aid when emergencies occur and we are able to help.