June 13, 2013
On Friday, June 7th, Haitian President Michel Martelly joined members of Parliament and local authorities to inaugurate Pignon’s new public square. Pignon Mayor Dioda Calixte and member of parliament Deputy Hidson Nelson welcomed President Martelly and congratulated the President for his “broad vision” for Haiti. Deputy Nelson represents Pignon, where Haiti Outreach is headquartered, and the towns of Ranquitte and La Victoire. Prior to President Martelly’s visit, Haiti Outreach Country Director Neil Van Dine discussed the Pignon water system and the need for additional funds to complete it with Deputy Nelson. This is one of the community development projects in which Haiti Outreach is currently engaged.
The attractive square, located on the site of the original public park in downtown Pignon, contains a central recreation area, a lighted basketball court, bleachers, two covered stages, lighted walking paths, elevated observation platforms and four water fountains. SECOSA, the firm that built the park, is a long-time partner of Haiti Outreach.
The park is a source of pride for those living in Pignon and signifies yet another sign of progress. Reconstruction projects such as the new public square and electrification of the town of Pignon are helpful for attracting skilled workers from the bigger cities. In addition to the square, other major reconstruction projects underway in Pignon include a soccer field, a public market and a National Lycée (public secondary school).
January 26, 2013
On Friday, January 18th, a beautiful summer-like day in the Haitian town of Rankit, the first public secondary school building (lycee) ever built in this town of about 20,000 people was officially inaugurated. Many important officials were present, including the town’s mayor, the Deputy (Congressman) for that area, the Ministry of Education’s Supervisor for northern Haiti, representatives of various Minnesota Rotary Clubs and the Pignon (Haiti) Rotary Club, many Haiti Outreach employees, plus hundreds of students and adults of the community.
The Rotary Partnership for Haiti, consisting of many Rotary Clubs who support the community development work of Haiti Outreach, worked with Haiti Outreach for nearly two years and raised the funds for the school. The Rotary Partnership for Haiti includes not only Rotary Clubs in Minnesota and Wisconsin, but Clubs as far away as Pennsylvania, Toronto and Germany. A matching grant from Rotary International and hosted by the Pignon (Haiti) and City of Lakes (Minneapolis) Rotary Clubs also helped to make the school a reality. Attending the inauguration were Rotary District #5950 Governor Bob Stowell, Minneapolis City of Lakes President Christine Taylor and member Olaf Minge, Eden Prairie Noon Club Todd Bollig, and Minneapolis Uptown member and Haiti Outreach Finance Director Dale Snyder. Pignon Club President Obed Theodore and others were also present.
The morning started with a parade from the town center to the school, with students in uniform marching in two outside lines and the various VIP’s in the middle, all being lead by a brass band. The lengthy ceremony included prayers and the singing of hymns, student dance and choir performances, the band playing, a student skit, and many speeches by the VIP’s. The ceremony culminated in the traditional “passing of the keys” – the keys to the various classroom doors. They traveled from the hands of Haiti Outreach employees who managed the construction of the school, to Rotary members, to the Deputy, the Mayor, the school committee responsible for maintaining the school, and eventually to the school’s director.
Many of the speakers expressed gratitude to Rotary members and Haiti Outreach for making this school a reality. The 7 classrooms, one for each secondary grade level, have the capacity for 60 students each. If the demand for the school exceeds that, they are prepared to have two shifts. The school also consists of a large latrine, a well for fresh, clean water, and a two-room administration building. Rotary Governor Stowell said what so many of us were thinking, that we were honored and privileged to be able to make this contribution to the children and future generations of Rankit, while admonishing the students to take advantage of what the school will provide: an opportunity for them and their community to have a better future, IF they do the work of becoming great students. Now, in this town in Haiti , that opportunity has been provided to all students who wish to take advantage of it. Thanks go to everyone who have contributed and worked to make this possible. The people of the community of Rankit are forever grateful!
A finished classroom without the student desks, as they were being used for the audience to sit on during the inauguration.
January 18, 2013
On January 12th, 2013 supporters of Haiti Outreach took a leap into the chilly waters at Fish Lake Park in Maple Grove as part of our 4th Annual Deep Freeze Dunk! From brave people in just bathing suits to those decked out in actual suits, it was great to see how much fun everyone had with the event. Thank you to all who participated – whether you were a Dunker, a Chicken Dipper or one of the generous donors to a friend’s fundraiser!
We raised a grand total of $18,757.45!
All money raised from the Dunk will be used to further the Haiti Outreach mission of providing sustainable, community-managed water and sanitation facilities to rural Haitians.
You can see photos and videos from the Dunk at these sites:
- CCG Creative took professional quality photos at the event. The photos are now posted on their website. They are available for purchase with all proceeds going to Haiti Outreach.
- Our Deep Freeze Dunk FaceBook page has photos as well! (Be sure to ‘like’ the page too)
News coverage of the event can still be seen at these links:
We extend our deep appreciation to our event sponsors:
- Maple Grove Rotary
- City of Lakes Rotary
- Rotary Partnership for Haiti
- First Class Mortgage - for being our ‘hole’ sponsor
- Arbor Lakes Dental - for sponsoring our pavilion
- CCG Creative - for donating photography services and the money generated from selling prints
- Schmitt Music - for the sound system and megaphone
- The many Haiti Outreach and Rotary volunteers who made things run smoothly!
November 5, 2012
This blog post was written by Zanna Hittner, a graduate student at UW-Madison and a Haiti Outreach ambassador. Zanna traveled to Haiti to learn about the work we’re doing and begin collaborating with us. Her time spent in Haiti was so inspirational that she has decided to create a thesis project that supports the work Haiti Outreach does. This is Zanna’s story about her experience in Haiti.
When I stepped off the airplane—onto the grass runway—95 degrees of hot and humid air welcomed me to Haiti. It was a pleasant relief from the cool temperatures I was used to back home in Wisconsin. The warmth that welcomed me on my first day in Haiti carried on throughout my weeklong stay. But more than just the atmospheric temperature; the people I met surpassed my expectations as they showed me kindness and hospitality unlike any I had experienced before.
I stayed at the Haiti Outreach guesthouse, which is conveniently located near the airport and adjacent to the Haiti Outreach offices. Anne-Marie is the head cook at the guesthouse; she took care of me by preparing delicious food. Every morning a fresh breakfast of local fruit and homemade spicy-peanut butter or oatmeal and eggs awaited me and provided the fuel I needed to start the day’s adventures.
With only a week to spend in Haiti, my days were filled to the brim with touring, meeting people, taking photographs, and learning about Haiti Outreach. My Haitian Creole is far from sufficient, so thankfully, Raynold (a Haiti Outreach employee, and my new friend) traveled with me to help bridge communication gaps. One of my favorite things to do was attend Well Committee Meetings. [I learned that each community that wants to have a Haiti Outreach well built must request one and create a Well Committee. When they do, a Haiti Outreach employee will meet with the committee to begin the process.] We would leave the Haiti Outreach offices right after breakfast and sit in on a couple of Well Committee Meetings. Observing the dynamics at Well Committee meetings was really interesting and intriguing to me. A Haiti Outreach employee, whose job title is “Animator”, would help coach a village committee through decisions and provide feedback that enabled the committee to come to a consensus; over the course of the week I went to close to ten Well Committee meetings and each one was different.
Some committees had trouble deciding which rules to enact, others adamantly took a stance (The committees made decisions about rules such as: Do we want to pay a guard to watch the well? How much will we charge community members to use the well? Who will manage the banking?). Throughout the interactions I watched as the Haiti Outreach Animators moderated and carefully coached the committee to think about the potential problems and solutions that they may face. The Animators had the ability to empower the committee to establish a plan and strategy to approach impending issues. I was pleasantly surprised to observe that the Animators never forced the committee to choose a specific rule; instead the Animators facilitated the development of new thinking and skill building, which enabled the committee members to make the best decision for their community.
Later in the day, after attending a couple of Well Committee meetings, we would visit local water sources—either contaminated rivers and stagnant streams, or functioning wells funded by Haiti Outreach. At both of these types of locations I had the opportunity to talk with locals and get a glimpse into their life. During our conversations I really began to understand how important safe, clean water is. I also realized how often I take for granted the clean water I have access to back home. I thought about the long leisurely showers I take back home, compared to the hours many Haitians walk to acquire water.
The women I talked to at contaminated water sources explained how difficult it is to gain access to clean water; walking hours and/or subscribing to a community well is not a physically or financially viable option for their families. Instead, they settled for what is nearby and easy, despite the potential contamination. The conversations I had with women at local streams reminded me of the luxuries I have back home, and how easy it is for me to take a fearless sip from a drinking fountain. I felt equally blessed and unworthy. Why me? Why was I lucky enough to live in a country that had the built-in infrastructure to provide me with clean water at the push of a button? I fervently wished that all people could have safe, clean water.
I also talked to women near wells funded by Haiti Outreach, many of whom would walk 2-3 hours each day to gain access to safe water for their family. The women told me how thankful they were to have clean water for their families. They smiled and told me that their families were no longer sick, and having a healthy family took a tremendous amount of worry off of their shoulders. I couldn’t help but return their smile and be thankful for the opportunity to meet these women and work with Haiti Outreach on such a meaningful endeavor.
When the sun began to set, we would climb into the truck and make our way back to the Haiti Outreach guesthouse. Sometimes I would ride home in the back of the truck, where the wind would whip through my hair and my mind was free to reflect on the day. I felt grateful for the resources I had back home, but somehow, nothing could compare to the overwhelming happiness I experienced in the presence of the people I met in Haiti. Their warmth and generosity radiated brighter than the setting sun.
September 11, 2012
For this year’s Haitian Paralympic competitors, preparing and experiencing the games came with preparation beyond the fields. This year will mark only the second time that Haiti has been represented at the Paralympic Games. At this year’s games, three athletes had the privilege of representing their country and standing for something much bigger than athletics.
Though about 10% of Haitians have a disability, there is still much social exclusion within the country. A campaign called “The Dream” has been working tirelessly to prepare this year’s team of disabled athletes for the Paralympic Games. “The Dream,” an international campaign, began in the United Kingdom in hopes of raising support for a team of Haitian athletes to participate in the 2012 Paralympics. “The Dream” states that their goals are to: “Help fight the stigma associated with people with disability, help build support for Haitian communities to provide support and services to people with disability, provide infrastructure for long-term sporting activity for people with disability in Haiti, encourage the international community to better respond to the needs of people with disability in the developing world, and inspire people all over the world, especially those with disability.” The coaches of this year’s team say they aim to expand Haiti’s Paralympic team to 20 athletes for the Rio 2016 Games.
All three Haitian athletes in this year’s Paralympic Games had incredible stories of courage and perseverance. Paralympic competition holds specific classifications, meaning these competitors are held to specific requirements.For hand-cyclist Leon Gaisli, the path to the Paralympics seemed impossible. After the 2010 earthquake, he was left paralyzed. But after receiving a “rough rider” wheelchair from the Walkabout Foundation, who has partnered with “The Dream” campaign, Gaisli was able to train and, eventually, compete in this year’s Paralympics.
Josue Cajuste, disabled from birth, was bullied throughout his life. He struggled as a child, being portrayed as an outcast because of his disability. Beginning athletic competition through participating in amputee football, he eventually was introduced to javelin and shot put. At this year’s games he competed in shot put and javelin F42.
Nephtalie Jean Louise, who competed in javelin and discus F54 events, had polio when she was only eight months old, damaging her leg for life. She pushed herself as she grew, and after meeting the president of Haiti’s Paralympic committee in 2006 she began powerlifting. In 2008, Louise was the only Haitian to go to the Beijing Games, only to discover she had exceeded her competition weight. But that didn’t bring her down and she continued to train, successfully competing in this year’s London Games.
This team longed for much more than winning medals. They longed to inspire people with disabilities, hoping to demonstrate that having a disability doesn’t make you incapable of pursuing your dreams. In an article in the Telegraph, written by Nephtalie Jean-Louis herself, she said, “I would like to have a medal, preferably gold. But most importantly, I want to change the way they treat people with disabilities in my country, to help them, to give them motivation, to help them realize their dreams, so they will be treated differently.”
At this year’s Paraylmpic Games, they did just that!
August 29, 2012
As we begin our 15th year celebration, we’re getting crystal clear on our strategy. Through recent management and board discussions at Haiti Outreach, we’ve reaffirmed our program focus on our strengths in community development and management, and in water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities and training. The next step is to make this clear and tangible by refining our Vision and Mission Statements, and creating our first Values Statement. We’ll then define our Crystal Clear Strategy with goals and objectives.
While our work and philosophies will not change radically, this work will help us convey the essence of our work and our organization more effectively to others. It will help us focus our goals and our activities, and define standards for how we’ll work as individuals and as an organization. It’s a healthy process for any organization to undertake on a regular basis.
· Our Vision Statement will explain why we are doing our work. It will convey our vision for the future we want to create for the communities want to impact, and our vision for the future of Haiti Outreach. It’s about what’s possible.
· Our Mission Statement will describe what we’ll do to make our vision come true.
· Our Values Statement will describe how we’ll do our work, and it will set standards to guide our thinking, actions, and decisions. Our values will reflect the values that we work to cultivate in the communities we serve.
The statements will reflect important decisions we’re making about our future, and will help us set a Strategic path forward that leverages our strengths and successes to have the greatest impact on Haiti’s sustainable development. Stay tuned as we unveil our new Crystal Clear Strategy, sign up for our enews and don’t miss a thing!
August 13, 2012
For Samyr Laine, the 2012 London Olympics were about much more than breaking records and stacking up medals. Competing for Haiti, Laine saw these games as an opportunity for inspiration and an opportunity for change. He wanted to motivate others to rebuild his family’s home country.
Laine, 28, is one of Haiti’s five participants in the 2012 London Olympic games. Laine, competed in the triple jump finals in hopes of winning Haiti’s first medal in 84 years. Though Laine was born in the United States, his parents and extended family emigrated from Haiti. He grew up in New York, eventually attending Harvard University, where he competed and set an Ivy League record in triple jump.
His continued success pushed him toward Olympic competition. Laine, who didn’t even try out for the United States 2012 London Olympic team, said that his interest in representing Haiti in the Olympics increased when he joined the 2010 Haiti earthquake relief effort. According to David Jeannot of NBC, Laine explained, “I want to go there and win a medal because I know that the entire country and the Haitian diaspora, and people on the island itself, they would just be elated. Even without the earthquake from two years ago, it would still be a big deal to give people their hope and to inspire folks.”
After passing the bar exam, Laine put his law career on hold and founded the “Jump for Haiti” foundation, a nonprofit aimed at promoting interest in sports in hope of creating future Haitian Olympic athletes. The goal of the organization is to develop athletes that were born and raised in Haiti. “Jump for Haiti” will include track-and-field camps and after school athletic programs. Laine sees athletics as an opportunity for Haiti to grow. According to Alice Speri of the Wall Street Journal, Laine explained it this way: ”So much beauty and potential lies there. The country can do great.”
Laine may not have medaled in this year’s Olympics, but his goal of inspiring others is still very much alive. His story is being told worldwide and his aspirations reach far beyond the sand pit. As Jeannot noted, Laine summed up his mission: “As an athlete you realize that this is a way for me and my teammates to use sport to inspire others to rebuild the country, to do great things.”
Photo Credit: Reuters
August 1, 2012
For most Americans, the threat of cholera is as remote as the threat of polio, tuberculosis or any other formerly catastrophic disease. If you live in Haiti, however, the story is different. More than 7,000 Haitians died from a recent cholera outbreak, and thousands more continue to fight this infection that literally starves the body’s cells of life-sustaining water.
The most common cause of cholera in Haiti is contaminated drinking water from polluted rivers or mountain streams. Regrettably, most Haitians still rely on these water sources for their daily needs. Which is why Haiti Outreach continues the work it began in 1997 to bring clean, safe water to the Haitian people.
Using three well drilling rigs and a community-based well ownership and maintenance system, Haiti Outreach has already helped bring clean, available water to more than 150,000 people. In addition, and with the help of thousands of donors and volunteers, Haiti Outreach has helped rebuild municipal water systems and repair wells damaged by hurricanes. Most recently, Haiti Outreach participated in World Water Day, raising enough money to secure the building of two more wells. And, more wells means less threat of waterborne diseases such as cholera.
We wish to thank everyone who has helped make this important work possible, and we ask you to consider supporting Haiti Outreach again in the future. Together, we can move cholera in Haiti from the headlines to the history books.
Photo ©Haiti Outreach 2012
June 26, 2012
Whenever you visit another country, it’s always fun and less stressful to know at least some bits and pieces of the local language. Whether you travel with us to Haiti or on your own, we think it might be useful to learn a few Creole phrases to get you started on your journey! Check out Traveling Haiti for an extensive list of basic Creole as well as a pronunciation guide!
Here are some basic Creole phrases:
Bonjou means Good Morning. A nice way to greet someone at the start of the day!
Bonswa means Good Afternoon/Evening and is typically used after 11 AM
Komon ou ye? is a way to ask someone How are you doing?
N’ap Boule is a very common greeting and response meaning Good!
Wi means yes while Non means No
Mesi means Thanks and is a great way to be polite!
Souple means Please, another easy way to be courteous.
Merite means You’re welcome which can be used after Mesi
Pa gen Pwoblem means No Problem!
Oke means Ok. You could use this when someone asks you to do something.
Eskize mwen means Excuse me! Which would be nice to use in a crowded area.
These are basic, everyday phrases that can be very helpful in your travels! Try some phrases out together and see how easy it easy to hold small conversations with just a small knowledge of Creole!
June 5, 2012
Recently, we had a feature in Minnesota Business who did a section on standing out and those who inspire others. Their short piece on us, Haiti Outreach: How Technology Enabled Success, focuses on our organization implementing a social media strategy. After functioning fine for years without one, after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, we realized we needed a new way to reach out to our community. This article discusses our transition to an online world and how we utilized social media tools to engage our community and successful outreach and fundraise. To read the piece in it’s entirety and the rest of May’s issue of Minnesota Business, click here.