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Volunteering in Haiti

Thank you for the all of the interest in this trip. As requested, here is some more information on how I made the decision on where to go, what I was going to do to and finally the timing of the trip.

I have been wanting to give back for a number of years and so it was a frequent topic of discussion with friends and business acquaintances. Many of them had either done something similar or knew people who had. So these conversations were wonderful opportunities for me to learn from their experiences and perspectives. The majority of folks, who had firsthand experience of taking a volunteer trip, felt that they had the most impact in communities that really needed help. Getting to the locations was often very challenging, especially in the rainy season or soon after a disaster. Initially, I was thinking of heading back down to New Orleans (they have still not recovered from Katrina) but hearing about the experiences of others who had volunteered outside the US, I decided that I would like to do the same. I just had to decided where…..

I have a number of good friends from Haiti and they have shared a lot about their country of birth and growing up there. Perhaps, the biggest surprise for me was that Haiti is much poorer than Cuba, yet they don’t get the outside support that Cuba gets. Haiti has survived much political turmoil which meant that they don’t have the infrastructure in place to handle the many natural disasters that have plagued them. Of all of the countries in the Caribbean, it has the weakest infrastructure. The majority of the country still doesn’t have have clean drinking water. The country does has a strong relationship with Cuba, even though they share the island with the DR. As I did my research to learn more, I was surprised to discover just how much hardship the country has been through. So, the decision was pretty easy, the where was now decided – Haiti.

 

On to the What to do…..

Now this is where it got interesting. I don’t have the medical skills that are always in demand and so I started off with a google search for “Haiti NPO” (Non Profit Organization). Wow! More than 300,000 results. I randomly clicked on a number of the links and some of them looked pretty sketchy. There are a number of articles stating that Haiti has the highest count of NGO’s per capita. As this article explains (http://nacla.org/news/ngos-and-business-poverty-haiti), it is little misleading because the government does fund quite a few of the NGO’s. However with so many NGO’s, there is the issue of the lack of accountability and there are a lot of rumors and stories about misappropriation of funds where the benefits are simply not getting to the people who are in need. Great….this is going to be a lot more difficult than I thought….After days of searching and asking friends that are active in the Seattle NPO communities, I finally had a list of potential organizations.

Time to add more criteria to help narrow the selection down.  I did not want an organization affiliated to a particular church, I wanted to support my principle of “freedom of religion”. To me, it feels rather unfair to bundle a particular religion with the desperately needed help. Please don’t get me wrong, a lot of the church organizations have some phenomenal programs and are doing some great work. I just wanted the people that needed the help, to have freedom of choice of religion. This was when I first encountered an organization called Fuller Housing. Like most NPO’s they do have strong christian roots but are totally focussed on the pursuit of building homes in regions that really need help. Many churches use them for there volunteer efforts.

The next criteria was “skin in the game”, I wanted the people that I would help, to be actively involved with what we were doing. This narrowed down the selection drastically and after a couple more days in front of the computer, I had my short list. I then reached out to the NPO’s. The NPO’s that did not respond, or responded with requests for $, were immediately eliminated. The organization that I selected is: The Fuller Center for Housing for a number of reasons; they are active across the globe, non-denominational, they provide interest-free loans for the recipients of the houses, and very important to me, they are transparent. (you can find their financial reports on their website.)

So now, all that remained was to signup for one of the scheduled trips, complete the screening process and make the financial commit.   I will be joining a volunteer team that will be building houses in Pignon, a town in Northern Haiti.

Travel is pretty simple, a red-eye from Seattle to Miami and then a direct flight to the capital off Haiti, Port-au-Prince, see the yellow star in the middle of Haiti. The second yellow star in the northern part of the island is Pignon, where we will be volunteering.

Many of you have asked how you can help? I have created a fundraising page to help raise the $5,500 that a single home costs. Please help those less fortunate than us and mark your donation for Haiti because The Fuller Center has efforts across the globe.

 

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