Sustain Haiti was created and began sending volunteers and aid to the country of Haiti after a 7.0 earthquake rocked the country in January of 2010.
The inspiration to create the organization came to Warner Woodworth, BYU professor of Social Entrepreneurship and Organizational Behavior and student Dustin Homer after the earthquake hit.
Woodworth, Sustain Haiti’s Director, worked with BYU to help bring education and long-term help to the people of Haiti but the help wore off. He wanted to continue working with the people and brought Homer onto a leadership board. The two men along with a few other volunteers helped lift the project off the ground.
“Sustain Haiti was formed by a group of social entrepreneurs in response to this disaster,” said Kaitlyn Tolman, Sustain Haiti’s director of Public Relations. “Focused on principles of self-reliance and sustainable development, our goal is to help Haitians help themselves. The Haitian people are brave and talented, but they need help rebuilding their lives and homes. This need inspires Sustain Haiti and are committed to improving the lives of the Haitian people.”
Over 200,000 Haitians were killed and 1.3 million were left homeless from the devastation.
“The real objective we had creating the organization was to meet a need that other people were not going to meet for the people of Haiti,” Homer said. “A lot of people were sending medical supplies but our objective was to come in later to create something longer lasting than emergency relief. We wanted to help with education and loans to aid in long-term improvement.”
As Sustain Haiti projects continue to take root, the ultimate goal of the organization is to find useful ways to meet local needs and build relationships. Homer and Woodworth are focused on working with neighborhood groups to make connections that help in implementing other programs, most of which are educational. English, Business and Agriculture are just a few of the programs taught by the organization.
UVU Photography major, Shalise Brady volunteered with Sustain Haiti for six weeks from June to July of 2011. Brady arrived in Leogane, the epee center of the earthquake with four others, joining other volunteers from Arizona, Provo and the Draper area.
Brady worked on a majority of the projects Sustain Haiti had created. She explained that volunteers would teach English every morning Monday-Friday. Volunteers help with gardening and teaching Haitians how to square for gardening, dig, and plant seeds so they can sustain themselves after the volunteers leave. Residents are taught agricultural skills and work one-on-one with volunteers and learn to grow crops and take care of their own gardens. Brady helped distribute supplies and head off basic first aid training such as wound care and the Heimlich maneuver – lessons that would save lives.
Volunteers help in teaching health classes to communities about cholera and wound treatment – care that isn’t complicated but for people there pose big problems due to a lack of knowledge on how to take care of their health and eventually turn into something bigger. Participants receive basic medical supplies after training. The business programs teach residents how to start and run their own businesses. A competition was created for people to come up with a new business plan to present to a judging panel and the winner receives money from Sustain Haiti to give it a try.
In regards to the impact Sustain Haiti is having on the country and people, Homer had the following to say: “That’s a question someone lays awake at night thinking about. The way we see it – the big impact is trying to empower people with some hope and confidence. We have learned and noticed in Haiti that people are really smart, ambitious and want to make something happen for them but opportunities are few. People look for any chance to do something and improve their situation.”
Volunteers are sent to a city with approximately 100,000 people called Leogane, Haiti – 20 miles west of Port-au-Prince. Each summer approximately 30 volunteers travel with the organization to Haiti while additional volunteers are providing support from Provo. With five trips this summer, volunteers with serve for six weeks each. In the past Roney Charles, a Haitian BYU student has lead efforts on the ground every summer as the ground manager but this past summer we gained local volunteers to coordinate.
Homer said word of mouth has always been the best form of promotion and advertising for Sustain Haiti. “We’ve had a lot of volunteers from BYU, Arizona, UVU and other schools across the country. We’ve tried to build networks that way.“
Funding comes from volunteers and other big donors and is used to purchase supplies for classes and gardening. Pinnacle Security really helped the organization get on its feet. Homer told of a friend that rode his bike for six weeks from Washington, DC to Miami, FL to raise money.
“The culture shock was a good experience for people and gave me a greater appreciation for what I have,” Brady said. “I felt safe with the organization. The service of it all and forgetting yourself – it’s an overall amazing experience that changed my life and I know it changed everyone else’s.”
Sustain Haiti is a non-denominational, independent group of Haitians, development specialists, students, social entrepreneurs, and concerned citizens based in Provo, UT.
Donations to Sustain Haiti can be made through PayPal on the website:
By Kaiti Pratt