A Bridge to the Future

Anyone who has visited Louverture Cleary School (LCS) knows that the bridge connecting the Chapel and the large Agora classroom building is crucial to the flow of students between classrooms, dorms and other areas of the school.  The bridge was built nearly a decade before the 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010.  It was deemed serviceable by experts and state authorities during their evaluation of the campus after the quake. However, like the buildings, it was also included in the seismic renovation plans developed to meet the possibility of an even stronger earthquake in the future.   

This summer, The Haitian Project (THP) celebrates the completion of the bridge reconstruction because it marks the end of an eight-year process of seismic repairs and improvements! 

  The completed bridge connecting the Chapel and the large Agora classroom building, handsomely painted by the LCS Class of 2018.

The completed bridge connecting the Chapel and the large Agora classroom building, handsomely painted by the LCS Class of 2018.

The 2010 earthquake marked a difficult time in Haiti’s history and in THP’s history, too.  However, once again, God provided THP the right person for the right job at exactly the right time…

Kurt Daviscourt is a regional manager at BELFOR, a global leader in disaster recovery and property restoration.  With 8,700 employees in 31 countries, BELFOR is well equipped to respond effectively in any emergency.  THP witnessed this firsthand when Daviscourt, a friend of THP President Deacon Patrick Moynihan, travelled to LCS after the earthquake and analyzed all the repairs and improvements necessary to keep LCS buildings and students safe.  Brian Jones, a BEFLOR senior project manager, accompanied Daviscourt.

Together, Daviscourt and Jones were a welcome sight, not only lending their expertise on the LCS campus but also visiting LCS’ neighbors and the homes of LCS employees and their families, many of whom had been sleeping outdoors for fear of their homes collapsing.

Daviscourt recalls:

When you show up in a desperate situation like that with a hard hat and a clipboard, people are very eager to hear what you have to say.  It was a privilege to help dozens back into their homes, and show THP how they could fix homes in need of repair.

On campus, the plan of action developed by Daviscourt and Jones required pouring 54 shear walls. Generally, this involved placing two pairs of parallel single-pour, rebar-reinforced walls on each floor.  The work was carefully scheduled and prioritized based on building use and strength. Buildings were completed by 2014, leaving the bridge for last.

  (from left to right) BELFOR’s Kurt Daviscourt, THP President Deacon Patrick Moynihan, and Pacific Engineering Technologies' Mike Smith reunite at a Seattle Mariners game earlier this year.

(from left to right) BELFOR’s Kurt Daviscourt, THP President Deacon Patrick Moynihan, and Pacific Engineering Technologies' Mike Smith reunite at a Seattle Mariners game earlier this year.

Deacon Moynihan expressed his personal gratitude, noting: 

Without the assistance of Kurt Daviscourt and his professional BELFOR team, we would have spent years and a lot of money trying to derive a plan to retrofit the campus for the new requirements created by the earthquake. Instead, we were able to get started immediately and operate safely in the interim. I could never say enough good things about Kurt, Brian and BELFOR.

In February of 2018, the existing bridge was knocked down to make way for a new and improved bridge. Construction began in late March and finished in early June.  The graduating class of 2018 stayed on campus during graduation week to clean up and paint the school, including the rebuilt bridge.  Their class name, “Transcendence,” fit the task of putting the finishing touches on the bridge—a physical sign of overcoming adversity. 

This project also marks the first time that a member of THP’s junior staff took the lead on a campus building project.  THP's Odson Francois took a leadership role as the project manager—a great experience for him personally and reason for the community to feel proud.

Like LCS itself, the rebuilt bridge stands because of many who responded generously with their talents: students, staff, volunteers, construction crews, architects, and THP’s friends at BELFOR.  As THP plans to expand and create a network of schools throughout all of Haiti, the bridge is also a joyful reminder of the many hands that will help us get a good job done. 

Community Update: On the Recent Unrest in Haiti

Dear THP Community Members,

As you may know, there have been widespread protests in Haiti over the past few days.

We want to assure you first and foremost that all is well on campus. Fortunately for us, school is out for the summer, but we have been taking every reasonable precaution to ensure the safety of our staff who remain at the school. 

While circumstances in Haiti, whether natural or man-made, occasionally present challenges, with nearly three decades of continuous operation and on-the-ground experience we are confident in our ability to make the best decisions possible in situations such as these.

We remain in regular communication with members of the Haitian private sector and others in Haiti who are helping us to understand and monitor the broader situation on the ground so that we can respond accordingly.

That said, at times like this there is always a tendency to see Haiti’s situation as hopeless or corrupt (to name just some of the descriptions we often hear).  As a result, people may decide that their donations are better placed elsewhere.

We argue instead that the disruption caused by natural disasters and political upheaval is precisely why people should invest more, not less, in the institutional capacity of Haiti to respond appropriately to these situations.  Funding quality education is one of the surest and most appropriate avenues for individual donors in the U.S. to address these issues.

Indeed, we are very focused on forming graduates who have both the capacity and the dedication to build a better future for the country to ensure that news reports like the ones we have been reading in recent days become less and less frequent.

Thank you for reading.  And, as always, if you do have any questions or concerns in light of recent events, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Peace,

The Haitian Project

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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!