|Sign in Campeche where the Red Cross promised to build hundreds of new homes, a water and sanitation system, and a health clinic. Residents claim none of that happened. [Picture taken from NPR article.]|
If you want to receive VIP treatment in Haiti, you just need to work with the right organization. In 2010, donations came flooding into organizations that promised to help rebuild Haiti after an earthquake killed 200,000. People around the world were generous, but, considering their generosity, the people of Haiti have received very little help. Many of the relief organizations that collected money lacked the know-how and skills to deliver on their promises, though they did take the cash. The Red Cross is the most recognizable charity among them. It raised almost half a billion dollars for Haiti, promising to build new roads, schools, and hundreds of new homes. Very little of that has happened, leading many to wonder where all the money went.
NPR and ProPublica went in search of the money and surfaced number of disturbing findings (Read NPR article). First, they found that the Red Cross used about twenty percent of the money it received to erase $100M of preexisting debt. Second, they found poorly managed projects and misleading and false claims by the Red Cross. For example, despite the Red Cross’s claims that it provided homes to more than 130,000 people, NPR and ProPublica found that the number of permanent homes built by the Red Cross was just six—that’s right, six!
Reading the NPR article describing the Red Cross’s work in Haiti helped me understand some of what we experienced on our trip to Haiti in June. At the time of our travel, we had raised about $150K dollars, resulting in the construction of twenty-three homes. When we arrived at the airport in Cap Hatien, immigration officials made all foreigners stand aside so Haitians could go through immigration first. That didn’t surprise us. What surprised us was what immigration officials did after their fellow citizens had gone through.
Upon seeing four of us in Food for the Poor (FFP) shirts, they pulled us aside and escorted us into a small room inside the terminal. They asked for our passports and immigration paperwork, which we handed to an immigration official. While he began reviewing our paperwork, another official explained. “Thank you so much for the work you do in our country,” he said. “There are a lot of charities that come here and say they will help us. They collect money, but they do it for themselves. They are not for the people. Food for the Poor is not like them. We know your work, and we appreciate what you do for us.” In short order, all four of us had been processed, and we were ready to grab our checked bags and begin our visit.
|Kate, FFP’s director of projects for Haiti (left), is FFP’s only employee in Haiti who is not Haitian. Does she do it to get rich? I don’t think so. She lives in an apartment without air conditioning (Haiti is a sauna) and takes bucket showers like the people FFP helps. She aspires to spend a week living in one of the mud and stick houses that FFP replaces, so she can better identify with the general population. I don’t think I could do what she does, but she tells us she loves it.|
At the time, that experience reconfirmed that we were working with a reputable organization. However, I didn’t really understand just how much of an anomaly that was until I learned about what the Red Cross and a large number of other charities had done. Their approaches to helping the poor were riddled with mistakes. They lacked the know-how and experience to do what they promised. The Red Cross sent in highly paid expats, who didn’t speak Creole and didn’t know how to rebuild a developing country. By comparison, FFP had been working in Haiti for years prior to the earthquake. Its 250 employees in Haiti—all Haitian except for one—understand the culture and speak the language, and they all have significant experience building homes and providing other aid to the poorest of the poor.
I have had a few folks ask, “How do you know the money is going to go where it’s supposed to? There is so much corruption in Haiti. Only a fraction of what is donated makes it to the people in need.” My answer is this: one hundred percent of the money raised goes directly to the designated project. FFP does not use designated funds to pay general administrative expenses, and it doesn’t work through the Haitian government or other aid organizations. FFP contracts directly with the people who help build the homes, and it oversees the work directly. While we had only raised $150K, we had already provided 23 families with new homes and renewed hope. That is nearly four times as many homes as the Red Cross with about .03% of the funds the Red Cross received. We know the money gets where it is supposed to because we have seen it for ourselves. We met the families. We listened to their stories. We received their hugs and shared with them in their joy.
If you have supported this project, you have done an amazing kindness for people who are struggling and feel forgotten by the world. You have given them hope for a better future, and they give thanks daily for what you have done for them. If you would like to help fund the completion of the project, please click below to donate. All donations are tax deductible.