Diaspora Philanthropy: An Untapped Potential For Haiti

Diaspora Philanthropy: An Untapped Potential For Haiti

Recently the rest of the world witnessed what many Haitians already knew: that there is an extreme lack of humanity and sympathy when it comes to the Haitian people. Many of our friends, family members, and extended family seek refuge in the Dominican Republic. We’re aware of the experience Haitians had in Del Rio, Texas, only a couple of months ago. It is more blatant than ever that Haitians need to support Haitians during times like this.

But what does that look like?

Like many other countries, Haiti’s large amount of philanthropy comes from outside sources. More importantly, often, these sources do not do what they promise to and fail to truly support our country. For example, in 2010, when a devastating earthquake hit our country, millions of people gave to the American Red Cross. In the end, five-hundred million dollars was raised for relief in Haiti. To date, this fundraiser is one of the Red Cross’ most successful campaigns. However, years later, we have struggled to see the results of that funding in the lives of the Haitian people or the country itself.

In a 2015 article, NPR reminds us that the American Red Cross had pledged to build roads, schools, and homes. Instead of these pledges coming to fruition, there was a series of badly managed projects, claims of success with little to no evidence to support said claims, and a history of questionable spending. At the time, the Red Cross claimed to have built homes for 130,000 Haitians but had only built six homes, certainly not sustainable for 130,000 people. 

According to NPR, a large reason behind the Red Cross’ false claims may be due to their lack of experience rebuilding in “developing” countries. But for we Haitians, that does not give us much comfort because, again, when we are struck with disaster, we are left alone. This is why we believe diaspora philanthropy, Haitians supporting Haitians, will be a more sustainable form of philanthropy.

We are loving, caring, and generous people. But it is time we turn some of those characteristics toward ourselves and one another. It is time Haitians better learn how we give and use that knowledge to support our community. If you are a Haitian living outside of Haiti, you can help us by taking this short five-minute survey. [English, Kreyol, French, Spanish]

Diaspora philanthropy is similar to community-led fundraising and project management. Community-led (similar to community-centric fundraising) fundraising is still relatively new to the philanthropic space, having only become a topic of conversation a few years ago. It is a fundraising practice rooted in both social justice and equity where members of the served community are put in leadership positions. The belief is that the community we are serving knows the highest needs of their community and can offer significant knowledge on how to best meet that need. This connects to diaspora philanthropy because we Haitians, especially those who live in Haiti, know what is hurting our country and our people and can offer resources to best address these needs. It’s about community and partnership.

But let’s define diaspora philanthropy itself.

According to Ajailliu Niumai in her paper “Indian Diaspora Philanthropy,” diaspora philanthropy is defined as “philanthropic giving from those that constitute the diaspora to their motherland of origin.” What this means is that a large part of diaspora philanthropy is connecting those living outside the mother country (in our case Haiti) with those living in it through giving. Niumai also states that diaspora philanthropy today (2011, the date of the paper’s publication) is primarily composed of Jewish, Lebanese, African, Chinese, Irish, Indian, and Philippine diasporas. By extension, this also means there is a sustainable amount of evidence for Haiti to use as we seek to support our country. 

In her paper, Niumai explains that diaspora philanthropy in the Indian community often comes in the form of micro-finance, healthcare, education, and providing resources for development projects. The reasons for this giving include “family, kinship, castes, clans, community, and religious factors, and the notion of assisting the poor and disadvantaged.” Among all diaspora, there is a feeling of inherent responsibility to the motherland, often accompanied by the religious inclination toward giving depending on the country. This responsibility is also geographically specific, with people giving to their specific state or village.

Now, how would diaspora philanthropy look in Haiti?

In Haiti, diaspora philanthropy would mean those living outside the mother country giving money and other resources to our family in Haiti. Additionally, instead of diaspora giving to foreign nonprofits who provide aid to foreign countries but are not based there, we should give to organizations based in Haiti. These organizations should also be operated by Haitians and primarily operate in Haiti. The reason behind this is what we previously stated in this post. Haitians understand what Haitians need, and community-led organizing has been proven to work. This is not to say that international organizations are all inherently wrong, but we believe focusing on nonprofits whose attention is on Haiti will provide more substantial support.

Additionally, diaspora should form their networks to gather resources for the motherland. For example, there is the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, the Bengali Association of North America, the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origins, and several more. Haitians diaspora may have created similar associations and groups; however, we are not as unified as we love to claim. Their collective efforts will lead to larger support and funding for Haitians.

However, while Niumai’s paper was intriguing and provided researched information for what we would like to do in Haiti, the paper focuses on the Indian community. If Haitians are to fully engage in diaspora philanthropy, we need to have a better understanding of how we give. If you are a Haitian living in or outside of Haiti, please help us by giving us more insight into how you give through this survey. We believe in a united and supported Haiti. Please subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on our socials below to stay informed. Thank you!

Everyone deserves to be treated as a human being.

-Haitian Proverb


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