Tag Archives: Haiti

Congress Passes Bill to Assess U.S. Funding in Haiti

Ian Schwab, AJWS's associate director of advocacy (far left), speaks at a Haiti Advocacy Working Group event.

Ian Schwab, AJWS’s associate director of advocacy (far left), speaks at a Haiti Advocacy Working Group event.

More than four years after a devastating earthquake hit Haiti, the country is still struggling with deep-rooted inequality, rampant poverty and a troubled government. Congress recently passed a new bill to reform how the U.S. tracks the progress of its development projects in Haiti—with the hope of making those projects more effective.

“Our government laudably committed a significant amount of aid to help Haiti rebuild, but a lack of transparency made it difficult to understand how U.S. government funds were being used,” said Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service. “The bill will help establish clear and transparent goals for future U.S. involvement in Haiti and will ensure that U.S. dollars are spent in responsible ways that create long-term, positive change.”

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How Beverly Bell’s Book “Fault Lines” Offers a Portrait of Haiti Through the Lens of Haitian People

Fault LinesThe fourth anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti has come and gone. There were the usual speeches, press conferences, updates and flurries of attention. There was also, at least in some quarters, an expressed concern that it is “taking too long” to make a difference on the ground, that the problems of weak government, corruption, misdirected aid, and missing land titles are inhibiting efforts to put the country back together.

Yes, it is all taking a long time. We at AJWS are not surprised because we know the people who know Haiti well, and they predicted that the recovery process would not go smoothly. They warned those of us who were ready to listen. Haitian people understand the incredibly complex 210-year story of their country better than Americans because they live the complexity—day in and day out. They also know that too often, and in too many ways, the U.S. government has been complicit in creating problems for Haiti and in Haiti and that, in some ways, this is still the case.

All of this is to say that to understand Haiti, I believe everyone should read one of the few books that really tells the story authentically: Beverly Bell’s Fault Lines. Read More »

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Dominicans of Haitian descent deserve full equality in the Dominican Republic

DR protest

Protesters organize outside the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court.

Daniela lives in a batey—a town of sugar cane workers—in the Dominican Republic. At 17 years old, she has just graduated from high school and now volunteers as a community health educator. Her dream is to go to college—but that dream was crushed last month, when the country’s Constitutional Court revoked citizenship from all Dominicans of Haitian descent born after 1929.

Daniela was born in the Dominican Republic, but the government no longer considers her a citizen—just because of her family’s Haitian heritage. The impact on Daniela and her family will be devastating. Her college dream is now shattered, and she might be deported from the only home she’s ever known. Read More »

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Facing a Food Crisis: The Ingenuity of Haitian Farmers

Originally posted on The Jew and the Carrot.

With Passover around the corner, many of us are poised to recite the words, “Let all who are hungry come and eat.” But when nearly 1 billion people around the world are hungry or malnourished, these words become acutely daunting—particularly for communities recovering from disasters.

More than three years after a major earthquake ravaged Haiti, the country is still struggling to recover. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of problems: homelessness, violence, political corruption and, perhaps most severe, a shortage of food—resulting in hunger. In November 2012, these crises were further exacerbated by Hurricane Sandy, which ripped through Haiti before wreaking havoc in New York and New Jersey. Read More »

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What I Learned from Grassroots Activists and AJWS Grantees at the International AIDS Conference

AJWS intern Jessica Newfield (right) at the “Grantee Meet and Greet” with AJWS grantees from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Last Monday, I took part in a gathering of global change-makers. Not only did I have the incredible opportunity to attend the International AIDS Conference, but I also participated in AJWS’s “Grantee Meet and Greet” event, where close to 24 of our grantees from Africa, Asia and Latina America networked, learned together, and shared experiences and stories. Now that the United States’ HIV travel ban has been lifted, grassroots activists and grant-makers can join forces in their fight against HIV and AIDS.

My specific role at the Meet and Greet event was to be the French interpreter for our grantees. It was very powerful to talk with the community leaders whose work I’ve been learning about all summer, and especially to observe how the impact of their work resonates internationally. Read More »

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Eradicating HIV Requires More Than Medicine

Staff and clients of AJWS Haitian grantee SEROvie. The group’s banner reads, “Everyone should be able to live his life with respect and dignity.” (Photo: SEROvie)

With the International AIDS Conference right around the corner, there has been a flurry of articles about stemming the spread of HIV in the developing world. We have certainly made great strides, but many countries’ efforts to maximize access to HIV treatment do not always succeed. Botswana is one example. In the early 2000s, the country demonstrated commendable leadership and rolled out an ambitious plan to test and treat all Botswanans for HIV. But the number of people without access to treatment remained high. This was the result of a number of issues, including stigma. Former President Mogae said, “I’m very frustrated. Because of the stigma attached to this sexually transmitted virus, and because some religious people have said this is a curse or that those who have HIV are sinners, many are afraid to get tested.”

This cautionary tale contains lessons the rest of the world should heed. Even as we celebrate the scientific discoveries and treatment that dramatically reduce ongoing HIV transmission and death, we should not delude ourselves into thinking that a biomedical solution can overcome the devastating effects of social prejudice and bigotry. These effects exacerbate human rights abuses and prevent people who are most vulnerable from accessing life-saving services.

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Women’s Day 2012: Port-au-Prince, Haiti

On Women's Day, Haitian women march behind a banner that says "Social Justice."

As Women’s History Month draws to a close, AJWS’s country consultant for Haiti, Amber Lynn Munger-Pierre, reflects on Women’s Day in Haiti.

If there were an observable theme that I could surmise from the Women’s Day activities in Haiti on March 8th, I would say that it was unity. The Women’s Day march brought together many diverse groups from Haitian Civil Society—women and men, adults and youth. There were so many groups present that it is hard to name them all. Some of AJWS’s partner organizations that were present include: AJWS’s partners FAVILEK (Fanm Viktim Level Kanpe/Women Victims Get Up Stand Up), GARR (Groupe d’Appui aux Rapatries et aux Refugies/Assitance for Repatriates and Refugees); PAPDA (Plateforme Haïtienne de Plaidoyer pour un Développement Alternatif/Haitian Platform for Advocacy and Alternative Development); and FRAKKA (Fos Refleksyon ak Aksyon sou Koze Kay/Force for Reflection and Action for Appropriate Housing). Read More »

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Haitian Women and Rabbi Tarfon

It is not upon you to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” I have used this saying by Rabbi Tarfon from Pirke Avot many times, but until last week, I hadn’t truly comprehended the meaning behind these words. Over the course of three days, I had the honor of meeting a delegation of Haitian Civil Society leaders who came to Washington to meet with officials in connection to the two-year anniversary of the earthquake.  They came as part of the Haiti Advocacy Working Group, a collection of U.S. organizations devoted to a fair and more effective reconstruction process in Haiti, that AJWS hosts.  Two of them, Marguerite Salomon, Director of GCFV (Group Concertation des Femmes Victims), and Emmania Durchard, Director of AJWS’s grantee KOFAVIV (Commission of Women Victims for Victims), have been fighting to protect women from sexual and domestic violence in Haiti for decades. When the earthquake hit, the situation became exponentially worse. Instead of giving up, these women continued forward. As Emmania described “…after the earthquake, the rate of sexual violence was so high, that we needed to support all of them. We have more work to do, not only to provide support, but to advocate and educate.”*

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Gleaning Inspiration from the “I-Witness Awards”

From left to right: Fred Kramer, JWW Executive Director; Ambassador Verveer; Pat Mitchell, CEO and President of the Paley Center for Media; and Allison Lee, Los Angeles Regional Director of American Jewish World Service.

On January 11, 2012, American Jewish World Service was pleased to co-sponsor the I-Witness Awards presented by Jewish World Watch at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. I was among the standing-room only crowd gathered to honor Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues for her incredible work to address grave injustices faced by women and girls in conflict zones.

In 2009, the Obama administration created the post of U.S. Ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues, finally giving this issue a diplomatic face within our own government. Obama brilliantly chose Melanne Verveer to fill the role. As Hillary Clinton’s chief-of -staff, the founder and CEO of Vital Voices, and in her current position, Ambassador Verveer has consistently recognized and muscled forward the inclusion of women leaders in key decision-making bodies. She has also shined a spotlight on gender-based violence and the paucity of women in global politics—issues that demand serious attention. Read More »

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Haiti Two Years Later: Why Won’t the International Community Listen?

It has been two years today since the devastating earthquake in Haiti claimed the lives of approximately 300,000 people. This anniversary should inspire us to take a moment of reflection to remember those whose lives were lost and, even more importantly, to renew our commitment to supporting the Haitian people’s goal for a new Haiti. But there has been an unfortunate disconnect between the international community’s response to this disaster and what Haitian civil society leaders on the ground want for their country.

We Believe in HaitiAs I think back to the many conversations that I had with AJWS’s partners in Haiti right after the earthquake, they weren’t just talking about putting back together the pieces that were broken, as many who came to Haiti to help have tried to do. They wanted to use this disaster as the impetus to construct a new Haiti—a Haiti where those who were rendered voiceless for so long would finally be listened to and included in the determination of their country’s future.

These grassroots leaders have acted on these ideas, working hard since the earthquake to shape their country from the ground up. They’re working for greater inclusion of small-scale farmers in the government’s agricultural agenda, pushing for housing rights for the more than 500,000 people that remain in camps, fighting for more just laws that protect against sexual and gender-based violence and so much more.

But despite their progress, these local voices haven’t been consulted sufficiently over these past two years, as international organizations have descended on Haiti to implement their own agendas. In a recent article published by the Nation of Change it is estimated that only 1 percent of international aid went to the Haitian government and extremely little went to Haitian companies or non-governmental organizations. Instead, the funds have gone to support international organizations, plans presented by international governments and foreign private companies—all implementing their own agendas for how Haiti should develop.

In many cases, these projects have failed to succeed because they didn’t take into account the local context. For example, this past summer the “Building Back Better Communities” housing expo, held in Port-au-Prince, featured 59 housing units presented as possible alternatives for the more than 1 million people Read More »

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