We are just getting back from Haiti, where we celebrated the opening of the Haiti Development Institute (HDI) offices in the city of Arcahaie. We kicked off the celebration by taking our partners on a journey from our humble beginning as The Haiti Fund at The Boston Foundation by visiting our former grantees, and concluded with a view into our future impact in Haiti with the opening of our offices. This trip further cemented the importance of collaboration and deepened our relationships with key partners from civil society, local government and philanthropy.
We had our ribbon cutting ceremony on January 23rd at our newly finished offices just down the road from our partner Hope on a String (HOAS). HOAS invests in locally driven change by operating a community center in the micro-region of Arcahaie that is a physical space for community engagement and empowerment through music and performing arts. We kicked off the celebration by hosting a trip with some of our board members, The Boston Foundation staff, and partners. The goal of the trip was to showcase past Haiti Fund accompaniments and to demonstrate our intended impact moving forward. This trip further cemented the importance of collaboration in completing this work and deepened our relationships with our key partners including The Boston Foundation and the W.K Kellogg Foundation (WKKF). Included on the trip were: WKKF, The Boston Foundation, Arcahaie mayor’s office, State University of New York (SUNY), YouthBuild International, Ame-Sada, and ECODA.
This momentous occasion inspired us to look back on our tremendous impact as The Haiti Fund and our path to becoming HDI. In the days after the devastating 2010 earthquake, the Haiti Fund was born. The Haiti Fund was created to provide long-term support to human rights and reconstruction efforts in Haiti. As the Haiti Fund, we made 140 grants in Haiti and the Greater Boston area using an open multi-lingual grantmaking process, targeting the most impoverished rural communities. We scoured the Haitian landscape to discover and support little-known community organizations with deep roots in their communities run by local champions. Through conversations, we learned that the problem was not only the crumb-sized volume of aid delivered to Haitian organizations, but also that aid was too often allocated to poorly constructed short-term projects hatched up in boardrooms. These projects may have offered relief, but no real transformation. This is why, despite the billions of dollars invested in Haiti, little systemic progress can be seen, especially in rural communities. Haiti needed a mission-driven independent institution committed to sustained and tailored development to support philanthropic investments and development efforts.
HDI is built on the belief that an integrated approach to development is necessary to usher in systemic change in Haiti. We know that local leaders, civil society organizations, and social entrepreneurs have the potential to bring about transformative changes. The opening of our offices in Haiti is not just the culmination of our work over the past 7 years, but signals a shift in developmental approaches in Haiti. This momentous occasion marks the beginning of giving a platform to local leaders struggling to create social change in their communities to share their voices.