Archive for ‘Haitian diaspora’

June 11, 2012

Haiti news coverage after the world has gone away

Support journalism done by Haitian journalists. Above, one training sponsored by Solidar’IT (Frederick Alexis).

It’s been nearly two years since I visited Haiti and a year since I’ve written about it on this blog. In a perfect world my silence here reflects how often I’ve thought about my time in the country, its problems and of course, this Develop Haiti-diaspora-aid news idea. In a perfect world.

Back then, I used to look ahead to what news coverage about Haiti would be like once the world and its money inevitably moved on. I see diaspora as key to developing Haiti because unlike the native-born, the world has a short attention span and ‘two-years-post-quake’ can’t make the coin jingle like ‘6-months-post-quake.’ With barely enough bright spots to dimly light a dark room however, the English language information on offer generally sucks. The reason is simple: very few people if anyone with a stake in Haiti’s development (diaspora, NGO, business, donors, etc) demand better information.

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February 13, 2011

A Haitian-American nurse reflects on her service in Haiti

Like other first generation Haitian-Americans, Melissa Martelly had been itching to use her nursing skills on the ground in Haiti. Below, Martelly, who also has a masters in international peace and conflict resolution, writes about becoming an unlikely activist and her first trip back to Haiti since the earthquake.

Haitian-American nurse Melissa Martelly caring for one of her many patients in Croix-des-Bouquets, September 2010

I never thought that I would want to dedicate my life to developing Haiti but January 12th was my wake up call. Although I was born in the United States I’ve been visiting Haiti since I was a child.  Last September was the first time that I was there to help my people. Imagine: thirty-five seconds transformed me into an activist who now works to end Haiti’s history of poor governance, class division and social inequality.

I am a registered nurse and I had been trying to get on the ground since the earthquake.  All doors were shut.  To this day I don’t understand why international development organizations would not select a Creole-speaking Haitian-American health care professional to provide immediate assistance.

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December 18, 2010

At DC panel, lessons from Liberia on USAID’s transparency

Haitian diaspora gathering in Washington, DC, March 2010 -- was that the last one?

Editor’s Note: You require transparency from us but none from yourselves.  That’s the charge leveled at USAID by Liberia’s finance minister (and a couple of other people), at a recent Brookings Institution panel on the lack of transparency among aid organizations. Haiti’s finance minister probably feels the same way.  As poorly as Haiti ranks on the corruption index the US ranks near the bottom in international aid transparency. And what comes out of this panel is that while we’re great at measuring other governments’ corruption, we apparently suck at competently measuring ourselves, the donors.  Read on for the Liberian minister’s edited remarks, which also raise the question, is the Haitian diaspora lobbying Congress to improve USAID?

Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, minister of finance, Liberia I concur fully with the assessment … that aid transparency is a necessary condition for effectiveness…. Liberia is a highly aid-dependent country.  I don’t want to go through the history of civil war, the destruction, and the reconstruction efforts.  As we speak we receive more flows to the country through aid than even our domestic revenue.  [And] although the amount of [aid passing] through our budget [had] been very insignificant–around 2-5 percent–it has gradually gone up to 15 percent.  We are hoping that as we improve our country’s systems, more donors can use them.

Now, [however]… we have a situation where most donors want to use parallel [NGO] systems [and not] government systems.  [But] the parallel systems [have to] give us better development outcomes … otherwise, the moral justification of using the parallel system does not exist.

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December 15, 2010

Haitian diaspora missing opportunity to help reform USAID?

(AFP/Getty Images)

Sometimes the Haitian diaspora gets so caught up in old school methods of helping Haiti (remittances, barrel shipping, Haitian politics), it forgets to read the tea leaves of US foreign policy–and act before policy gets made or shot down.  Key word: before. Reform is all about timing; miss the boat one year, the opportunity won’t come around again for another 20 years.

Making the rounds this week is an Associated Press report that Haitian firms get $1.60 of every $100 of U.S. contracts paid out since January 12th to rebuild Haiti–or, less than 2 percent of $267 million.  It is possible to tip that ratio in favor of local business owners (and the U.S. firms who sub-contract to them), but the Haitian diaspora has to act now.

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December 11, 2010

Eyes on the prize | Creating employment in Haiti

A year after the quake, do nonprofits still have cash for cash-for-work? (Howard LaFranchi/The Christian Science Monitor)

Over the last month all eyes have been on actual and potential post-election violence in Haiti but there’s more than violence and frustration going on there (see below). Business happens in Haiti, too, but it’s a topic that won’t typically be reported on in the media–to the detriment of Haitian diaspora who’re either looking for sustainable ways to help their country or who want to magnify the impact of foreign aid.

Fact: investment opportunities exist in Haiti.  Business coverage can help to foster not only more of them but more open commercial transactions.  Fact: if there’s one word that the Haitians I talked to this summer repeated most often, it’s “job.”  Despite that, most of our media and community conversations in the US, even among the diaspora, center not on job creation but on charity–as if alms ever lifted any mass of people out of poverty.

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December 8, 2010

Election Results | Letter from Port-au-Prince

Fires are set in Haiti after the electoral commission yesterday announced the results of last week's controversial election. (Reuters/Allison Shelley)

Ed Note: Like most readers I’ve been receiving reports, rumors, online arguments, news, fearmongering, calls for calm, etc all day.  This morning I received a letter from a Haitian-American friend who lives in Port-au-Prince. Unlike most readers this is my first time worrying for loved ones in Haiti.

Dear Friends,

As Haiti week begins I think its important to talk about what is happening right now.  Many cities are burning today and no one can go outside. There are tires burning, Haitians being shot, wounded, gassed; manifestations, Aux Cayes is burning down, and essentially the country is burning down due to the presidential results announced last night.  Everyone is hearing gunshots and seeing smoke above their cities, including myself. Right now its Cap, Leogane, Aux Cayes, and Port au Prince…for now.

I’m sure you all have been up on the news but as Haiti week begins lets put Haiti into perspective because so long as the people are not respected and their freedoms are not respected, there will be no peace, and the people will continue to suffer even more.

Things are developing minute by minute and we don’t know if it will be a turn for the worst or that the unrest will be scaled down.  I pray for a resolution and hope that these events send some healing energy to our beloved Haiti.

Big Love,


December 5, 2010

Johnny Celestin | Revolution no answer to Haiti’s post-election crisis

Johnny Celestin, founding president, Haitian Fund for Innovation and Reconstruction

Editor’s Note: Concerned by Diaspora reactions to recent post-election unrest in Haiti, Johnny Celestin calls for order not chaos in his second post for DH.

I have been alarmed at the nonchalant ways in which observers from the Diaspora, especially friends whom I deeply respect have been bandying about the need for a revolution in Haiti.  They argue that because of claims of election irregularities, Haitians must take up arms against the current government – one more time.

They write that it would be a tribute to our revolutionary ancestors who 203 years ago, on 29 November 1803 issued a preliminary declaration of independence through military force. Yes, Haiti is in the midst of yet another crisis.  But rule of law, not more chaos and violence, is the answer that the Diaspora should seek.

For starters there is a tendency to over-simplify the Haitian revolution and downplay its impact on ordinary Haitians.

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October 18, 2010

Q&A | Tulane University’s Haitian Diaspora Survey Team

Editor’s Note: I contacted the HDS team for an interview after seeing their advertisement for survey-takers on the Corbett list a few weeks ago.  One, I wanted to know who was collecting information on the diaspora and for what purpose.  Two, I wanted to encourage any effort to put together a reliable snapshot of the disapora’s makeup, as well as its views on and contributions to Haiti.  There is little data out there beyond basic information. Tulane University master’s students Luis Capuchina and Vinita Oberoi launched the survey on September 15, 2010.  Fill it out before their early December deadline.

Why are you focusing on the Haitian diaspora?
Haiti is in an exceptional situation. The January 2010 earthquakes compounded the hardship associated with decades of underdevelopment, debatable NGO influence, environmental degradation and poor governance. We want to see how at a grassroots level, the Haitian diaspora—particularly first and second-generation—are responding to this historic disaster in their homeland.

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October 10, 2010

Johnny Celestin | Helping the Diaspora to Rebuild Haiti

Johnny Celestin, founder and president, The Haitian Fund for Innovation and Reconstruction

Editor’s Note: I recently attended a New York panel hosted by the Haitian Roundtable on the diaspora’s role in rebuilding Haiti. One speaker, Johnny Celestin, founder of a new Haiti investment fund and diaspora liaison at the Clinton Foundation kept it real about the diaspora’s obligations and offered tangible to-do’s and opportunities. With his permission I reprint his speech, edited for the Web, here.

The issues before us today are so important that we can’t concern ourselves with the possibility of offending sensibilities.  So without being too controversial, I would like to start with the hypothesis that the Diaspora is invisible and therefore irrelevant in the current debate about Haiti.  This irrelevance is nothing new but it is most acutely felt here in the United States because of proximity, the sheer size of Haitian Diaspora in the US, and its influence on the Haitian economy.

Let’s start with a few figures. They are the context within which we are here to discuss the question, “What is the role for the Haitian Diaspora?”

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September 6, 2010

My first time back from my first time in Haiti

View of P-au-P from a balcony of the collapsed Montana Hotel, reopened for media during the six-month anniversary

I didn’t realize I’d need a period of readjustment after returning to the U.S. from Port-au-Prince for the first time. Makes sense.  In the time it takes to drive from New York City to Baltimore I went from six weeks of 24/7 fight-or-flight response (normal in a place where if you get sick or hurt, ain’t no ambulance or cops coming) to the All-American sense that all is right in the world.

I’m home, I thought, when I saw the pink-tiled roofs of the Miami city grid.  Ambulances drive around down there.  Cops patrol the streets down there.  And when those two mess up there’re a couple buildings down there–City Hall, local news, law offices–that’ll welcome my complaints.  Even if the founding fathers didn’t intend it, this society was built to have my back.  In Haiti, for Haitians, it’s the opposite.  That realization however–the difference between Haiti and the United States–is the least that I think about now that I’ve been home for nearly a month.  I’m more taken by the disparities between Haitians (this includes foreigners with residences there).

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