7 Little Changes That Will Make A Difference With Your Haiti Project
When managing or supporting a community-based project in Haiti, many external and internal factors can affect your work. Sometimes, not for the better. If your project has stalled or you’re not getting the results you hoped for, here are a few grassroots tips you can try.
1. Identify and support local capacity.
Sometimes we need to take a few steps back to get the full picture. This is the time to review your project and determine if the work you’re doing is meeting a need. If not, first determine what the local needs are. Partnering with community actors and activists (more on that below) would be a great step here. But, once you reassess the need, ask yourself if your project has the capacity to meet the community’s needs.
Do you have the staff?
Do they have the background and knowledge?
If your project is on a deadline, do you have the time to adapt and get quality results, aka results that the community will be grateful for? Results that will have an impact and consider the locals’ input?
Localization is key to community-based work, as you’ll read below.
2. Listen to local voices to develop responses and approaches.
When working with a community that is yours or one you have a distant relationship with (as some Haitian diaspora do), connecting with local voices is necessary if you want your work to impact the community positively. It’s easy to reach out to politicians, activists, and other local leaders. However, they are not the only ones who make up a community.
A community is also composed of local people who may not have the title or office but have roots in their neighborhood. Building relationships with them and getting their insight is a way of shifting the power from those some would consider at the top of society to everyday people. Their lived experiences will be different than those with more money or social influence in the community. Make sure their voices are heard to develop optimal responses and approaches.
3. Use funding mechanisms that support local efforts.
If you can get the resources but can’t get them to the people you serve, you won’t be able to do the work. That’s why it’s crucial to understand local funding mechanisms and adjust how you receive resources if your current methods aren’t working.
For example, if your project is based in a neighborhood where bartering is the standard and very few people use online banking, how will you adapt? How will you get microgrants to local business owners?
Maybe you’ll choose to provide the grants in cash instead of a bank transfer or purchase the items yourself before giving them to the respective business owners. Again, if you have the resources but can’t get them to the people, there’s a significant gap in your project, but it’s never too late to fill it.
4. Supporting local actors to work together to achieve greater impact.
No one person makes a movement. It takes many people, many communities, and lots of grassroots work to make a great impact. All of this is to say; whatever work you’re doing, you can’t do alone.
Connect with other local activists and actors. Get their thoughts on what’s happening in their neighborhoods, the work they’re doing, the challenges they’ve had, how your work can support their project, and vice versa. Maybe your project is focused on health & wellness while their project is focused on food insecurity. Get together and brainstorm. Think about the neighborhoods you both work in. Is there overlap? Are you serving the same people? Can you combine your projects for a larger impact?
How can Haiti benefit from your partnership?
5. Hold these organizations accountable.
This one can be tricky but is necessary if you’re going to ensure that any shifted power is distributed among the community and not taken over by one organization. While it’s easier to point the finger outside of Haiti (and we definitely should), we also need to look at our country internally. Where are mistakes being made? Where is the corruption? Who are the people working with outsiders that do not have our country’s best interest at heart?
If you find that the organization or community group you’ve partnered with above is performing their work in a harmful or misleading way, it is your job to hold them accountable. This doesn’t have to be confrontational or aggressive. It can be a simple conversation with a few suggestions.
However, if they choose to continue their harmful practices, step away and end the partnership. There is only so much power, time, and energy we all have. These things should be put toward helping our community first.
6. Support “sustainable” projects instead of micro-projects.
In places like Haiti, it’s not uncommon to see missionaries or volunteers from organizations like the Peace Corps beginning and never finishing community projects. This is another reason Haitians need to take care of Haitians. Not only because we know our community but because the work we want to do is sustainable, meaning it’s long-term and will have a long-term impact.
Micro-projects can be useful, and they can do some good. However, the cost and gain of these projects usually aren’t favorable to Haiti. We need more sustainable work and less pop-in than pop-out efforts.
7. Instead of starting a new organization, support local organizations.
It’s easier to work when you already have a foundation. But building a new one takes a lot more time. Instead of starting your project or group, think about the resources you have to offer, the community’s needs, and then ask about which local organizations are meeting these specific needs.
Your final question should be, “How can I help?”
Hope makes one live.