Growing Concerns with International Relief Organization "Food For The Poor"

Big problems come when helping the poor becomes a big business. The Haitian Project (THP) has recognized this for years and has fought, both in Haiti and in the U.S., for the support of authentic missionary work that is rooted within the Church and guided by the values of subsidiarity, solidarity, and conversion.  It is no accident that THP’s mission is to increase access to education.   

Think about it…  

There is a limit to what we can do for others and how much we can "change" another person and that person's life. However, there is virtually no limit to what a person can do for themselves with an education and access to a good job.  

Education is received freely by the recipient. Since a child cannot pay for his or her own education, it is necessary that it be provided by others; either parents or the community. The result of receiving an education however, does not create dependency, but empowers a person to gain the other things necessary for life. It is both natural and appropriate to give education.

Education is the best multiplier. In Haiti, like in our own nation, education is the surest way out of poverty and to a higher income.  This is recognized by Haitian parents and Church and civic leaders alike. (Click here to read an interesting article detailing a conversation between Chicago Mayor and Brown University President on this.) 


  Is it appropriate to make poverty merely survivable, when you can actually make it escapable? (Photo from www.foodforthepoor.org.)

Is it appropriate to make poverty merely survivable, when you can actually make it escapable? (Photo from www.foodforthepoor.org.)

For over a decade, Food For The Poor (FFP) has stood out for the questionable ways it seems to conduct its business. In fact, THP has frequently raised concerns about FFP as it appears to have a special knack for giving unneeded, unhelpful, and unsustainable gifts to the poor of Haiti.  In our own experience, we have received gifts that ranged in “usefulness” from a stack of Rachael Ray Cookbooks, to beans that contained so many rocks that our cooks refused to use them.

Now, a recent cease and desist order filed against FFP by the Attorney General of California has provided additional reason for concern.

An analysis of the situation by Slate Magazine does a great job explaining what THP has argued for years:

By overinflating its in-kind contributions…Food for the Poor can claim to be much more efficient than it really is. The charity claims prominently on its homepage that 95.6 percent of “expenditures” were on programs, while just 4.4 percent were on fundraising and administration. That…reassures donors that their money is being put to good use, feeding the poor. But Food for the Poor’s ratios are a function of using a highly inflated denominator…. The upshot is that 1 of every 3 cash dollars donated to Food for the Poor in 2015 was spent on either management or fundraising—and that’s using the charity’s own expansive definition of what counts as a “program service expense.” 

Click the button below to read the full Slate Magazine article, "Inflated Expectations."

 

The Boston Globe recently published a cover story about Food For The Poor's questionable practices as well. THP President Deacon Patrick Moynihan and his wife Christina, who have lived and worked in Haiti for the greater part of the last twenty years, are quoted in the article expressing their concerns with the organization. 

"They are gaming the industry, because those of us who are not gaming cannot beat those ratios.  Food for the Poor is very likely taking donations from compassionate, well-intentioned individuals of modest means in order to help corporations dispose of their trash."

 - THP President Dcn. Patrick Moynihan in The Boston Globe, 6-3-18

Click the button below to read the full Boston Globe article on Food For The Poor.


So, why do we care about what Food For The Poor is doing?

It corrupts the nonprofit sector.  FFP’s fundraising model creates a perverse incentive for all nonprofits to find ways to understate their administrative expenses and overstate their program numbers in order to compete with the “efficiency” marketed by FFP and organizations with similar models.  That FFP and similar organizations operate (and thrive) in this manner greatly risks undermining the public’s trust in the sector as a whole.  And that is bad news for all of us. 

This is not just our opinion, but is based on reports in the press or other public filings of investigations in CA, MN, MI, FL and MA. Or consider, for example, how Slate Magazine recently described some of the likely practices of an organization that claims to be a champion of the poor as “…morally dubious, at best…ironically [delivering] Money for the Rich.”  (You can find the link to the full article below.) 

We have Haiti’s back. We are in the fight alongside Haitians committed to building a stronger and highly functional country so that Haiti’s people may escape poverty, not merely become more comfortable within it.  Our decades of on-the-ground experience in Haiti have given us strong connection to Haitian private-sector leaders and others who have raised serious concerns about FFP’s activity and their propensity to undermine and impede Haiti’s institutional development.  This works at cross-purposes with what we and our partners in Haiti dream the country can become.   

We care about the Church’s mission. FFP, an ecumenical organization, raises a significant amount of money from Catholic parishes around the country.  That means that there is less money to support the Church at home and authentic Catholic missionary work abroad. 

Volunteer Family Returns to LCS

April 11, 2018

Rachel and Nick Carter first came to LCS as Volunteers in 2011.  This spring, the Carters have generously responded to the call to return to LCS; this time with their young children Peter and Phillip. 

Rachel has picked up where she left off teaching English and Spanish at the school.  Meanwhile, Nick works at St. Francois de Sales Hospital in Port-au-Prince.  Among other projects, he is working with the Haitian Association of Surgerns to help prepare a trauma course for Haitian physicians that will be taught at the hospital in May.

A few words from an LCS Volunteer family:  

“We see these ten weeks at LCS as a trial run for a long-term commitment in Haiti.  We want our boys to grow up with the lessons that were reinforced for us at LCS – that progress requires hard work, that everyone can and should contribute to their community, and that faith drives commitment to justice. We are inspired by the commitment to Matthew 10:8 – “Freely you have received; freely give.”  We have been blessed with opportunities for graduate training in both education and surgery.  LCS offers a chance to share these blessings with a community and that means a great deal to us. Deacon Moynihan often talks about how the results of education speak for themselves. I find that to be a tangible truth at LCS.”

-Rachel Carter, Volunteer ’11-’12 and current English & Spanish teacher

 Rachel Carter remarked recently on the joy of seeing the progress her former students have made: “They are now finishing degrees in engineering, medicine, nursing,education, and business management. Lochard Laguerre, an 11th grade student in 2011, recently cared for my youngest son Philip (17 months) during a bout with strep throat.  Each graduate is the product of a strong community…”  

Rachel Carter remarked recently on the joy of seeing the progress her former students have made: “They are now finishing degrees in engineering, medicine, nursing,education, and business management. Lochard Laguerre, an 11th grade student in 2011, recently cared for my youngest son Philip (17 months) during a bout with strep throat.  Each graduate is the product of a strong community…”  

“There are so many interrelated hurdles to building a health system that can stand on its own in Haiti.  We have to respect Haitian leadership in setting specific priorities.  On the macro level, more than 90% of the population lacks health insurance and must pay out of pocket for medical care.  This makes even fundamental care prohibitively expensive for a large swath of the population unless it is provided on a charitable basis.  In the long run, the nation needs a stronger economy so that local professionals can maintain a living while providing care for the population at large.  The situation at the hospital at times is pretty tough, but I am always encouraged when I return to LCS and see the groundwork for a different Haiti being laid through education.” 

- Nick Carter, M.D., Volunteer ’11-’12 and visiting physician at St. Francois de Sales Hospital, Port-au-Prince

 Dr. Carter operating with Dr. Mertuse and Dr. Eustache at St. Francois de Sales Hospital, a large Catholic hospital built in Haiti's capital in 1881 and destroyed by the 2010 earthquake.  It was reopened in August of 2015 in collaboration with Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Health Association, and the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince. 

Dr. Carter operating with Dr. Mertuse and Dr. Eustache at St. Francois de Sales Hospital, a large Catholic hospital built in Haiti's capital in 1881 and destroyed by the 2010 earthquake.  It was reopened in August of 2015 in collaboration with Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Health Association, and the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince. 

School's Back in Session!

This past Monday marked the first day of the 2017-2018 school year at Louverture Cleary School!

Among those excited for the start of the new year is LCS Principal Marjorie Mombrun (LCS '07):

It is very exciting for all of us in the administration to have the students back. Celebrating a 100% pass rate on both required state exams, the Philo Baccalaureate and the Katryem state exam, we are very happy to start the school year off strong!

  Philo (US 12th grade +1) student Billy Saint Croix leads the school in prayer, Haiti's national anthem and the school song during the first morning meeting of the year on September 11, 2017.

Philo (US 12th grade +1) student Billy Saint Croix leads the school in prayer, Haiti's national anthem and the school song during the first morning meeting of the year on September 11, 2017.

A large part of LCS' success each year is the consistency with which it operates. THP President Deacon Patrick Moynihan reflects:

I am pleased that Irma saw fit to leave Haiti alone, even as great damage was done to her sister islands. School opening on time in Haiti each and every year is part of a process toward the institutional strength Haiti needs to be the great nation it strives to become.

 

  Members of the administration and staff gather to welcome the students back to LCS for another year, including Dean of Students Obed Gilles (LCS '09, far left) and LCS Principal Marjorie Mombrun (LCS '07, second from right), joined by THP In-Country Program Manager & Liaison to Partner Foundations Connor Branham (Volunteer '14-'15, far right).

Members of the administration and staff gather to welcome the students back to LCS for another year, including Dean of Students Obed Gilles (LCS '09, far left) and LCS Principal Marjorie Mombrun (LCS '07, second from right), joined by THP In-Country Program Manager & Liaison to Partner Foundations Connor Branham (Volunteer '14-'15, far right).

Thanks for celebrating the start of the new year with us. We look forward to a great year!

Why We Give: A Letter from Patrick Brun

I have grown up in Haiti witnessing my country deteriorate year after year.  I have seen a UN force sent to restore some level of security and order.  I have seen thousands of NGOs apply all kinds of theories only to leave after a few years, having nothing to show in terms of achievements or positive impact. Following recent natural disasters, I have yet to see one successful community development project even though an abundance of resources and hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent.

Through all this, however, I remain hopeful because I see great progress in the field of EDUCATION. For nearly 3 decades, The Haitian Project, through its Louverture Cleary School, has been educating young Haitians from the most vulnerable sections of our population.  This education allows them to qualify for jobs, earn an honest living and become productive citizens.  While not often reported by mainstream media, this transformation of our poorest citizens is the most important thing currently happening in Haiti.  Only through education will Haiti make order of its chaos, raising its head and moving towards true community development and economic growth with an educated population possessing the ownership and determination necessary to turn the country around.

The THP miracle has been a labor of love and of subsidiarity (working at the local level). It harnesses both US and Haitian resources to establish, in Haiti, a formal structure able to address the need for education at an institutional level. Through our recent establishment of local non-profit foundations, (Fondation Haitian Project and Fondation Educative Louverture Cleary) responsibility for school operations, assets, and property now happens locally.  We are becoming more equipped to build more schools in Haiti. 

Today, Louverture Cleary graduates are in every spectrum of Haitian life, bringing their values as Louverturians to the national edifice. Even with all I have seen these past 51 years, I have faith in the future knowing the day is coming, the tipping point, where Haitians, led by Louverturians, will have the ability to think strategically and collaborate with one another to accomplish our dream of "building a Haiti where justice and peace thrive.”

Regards,

Patrick Brun

THP Board Vice Chair
Chair of THP’s two Haitian Foundations
Haitian private sector leader

 Patrick Brun and Robert Moynihan catch up before a THP event in Providence, RI.

Patrick Brun and Robert Moynihan catch up before a THP event in Providence, RI.

Female Enrollment Strong and Steady

When THP President Deacon Patrick Moynihan arrived at Louverture Cleary School in 1996, changes were in order.  At the time, only 15% of the LCS student population was female.  Reasons for this disparity are many and include a domestic culture that views sons as more likely to earn an income and thus more deserving of what few educational opportunities exist. 

A strict affirmative action plan was immediately put into place, requiring at least 40% of each incoming class be female. Because potential students must pass an entrance exam for enrollment, this necessitated enrolling some females even if they tested lower than a number of males. 

Within only a few years, it became far less necessary to adjust the acceptance process.  Word got out about the success of LCS’s women graduates and biases in the community began to change.  Soon, LCS had a large number of female applicants to pull from.  

In 1996 only 15% of LCS’ students were female. Today, over 50% of LCS’ students are female.

"Right rules equal right results.”

Leveling the ratio is truly something to celebrate, but, as Deacon Moynihan points out, it is “very normal” that LCS won this particular battle:

If you put the right rules in place and defend those rules, you will get the right results. Beyond the pure justice of this issue, it is a great indicator that, in Haiti, if you introduce purposeful rules you will get very normal outcomes.

Today, there is no affirmative action plan—it is no longer necessary. Philo (US 12th grade +1) student Edwine Estinfil is just one of many who has benefited from the cultural shift that was ignited by the plan in 1996 and that now drives the large numbers of female applicants. She will graduate in a few short weeks from LCS, after which she plans to attend university and study medicine.  Edwine, fittingly, finds motivation in her mother:

My mom only went to elementary school.  I see how she has worked very hard to put me where I am.  I want to seize the opportunities that my mom did not have and make her life easier after I go to university.

Edwine Estinfil, pictured far right with a few of her Philo classmates, reflects: “We are also human beings and deserve to be educated because we have the same dignity.”