Haiti: Long Hard Climb From Devastation

On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake rumbled through Haiti. It destroyed infrastructure and devastated the lives of 3.5 million people. Oftentimes, tragedy strikes without warning and, in this case, the road back to normalcy has been long and difficult for the survivors.

Haiti is a small country of less than 10 million people. On that calamitous day, over 300,000 people lost their lives and an additional 300,000 were injured. Nearly a quarter of Haiti’s population was displaced with 1.5 million people left homeless.

The financial costs of this earthquake were equally destructive for this impoverished country with over $7.8 billion in damages. This would have been significant for even the largest of nations, but for a country such as Haiti, is was disastrous.

The lives of millions of people, families and especially young children were literally turned upside down in approximately 30 seconds. 30 seconds set the course as to who lived or died and what houses and businesses were destroyed. In those 30 seconds, an impoverished, but proud nation, fell into the abyss.

There are tens of thousands of stories about the struggle and sacrifices made in order to climb back out of the darkness against all odds. This has happened in a country where 72 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day. By way of comparison, the average American spends $7 per day on entertainment alone.

UNICEF has published statistics on the state of youth in Haiti, and they can be sobering. On average, less than 75 percent of children receive the recommended immunizations as prescribed by health professionals in developed nations, such as the United States. Only 64 percent of the population has access to improved drinking water sources. 74.4 percent of males ages 15-24 are literate. For girls, this is 70.5 percent. Clearly, there is more work to be done.

Haiti is the third largest country in the Caribbean, after the Dominican Republic and Cuba. Sadly, 80 percent of the population lives under the poverty line and 54 percent live in abject poverty. The average per capita income in Haiti is $480 per year, compared to $33,550 in the U.S. At present, approximately 150,000 people still live in flimsy structures made of plastic, tarps and plywood following the 2010 earthquake.

I have visited Haiti a number of times since that infamous day in 2010 and have been moved by the stories of the people. The women, men and children whom I have met want what any one of us needs: food, shelter, love and a peaceful life where a working-age adult can provide for his or her family.

On January 12, 2015, which is the fifth anniversary of the earthquake, my social enterprise, Funds2Orgs will officially open its first shoe micro-enterprise training depot in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Funds2Orgs has been operating out of Port-au-Prince for a number of years, and the experience and grassroots access the team has acquired has helped incorporate the organization into the fabric of the local community.

The Training Depot will serve as a hub for learning and education for budding entrepreneurs, offering them the opportunity to start their own businesses to support themselves and their families.

By way of example, Sylvia used to make $2 a day before she met the people at Funds2Orgs. Since she has been working with our team as a micro-entrepreneur, she now makes $60 a day, which is a living wage for her.

The Funds2Orgs Micro-Enterprise Training Depot will offer courses in math, reading and writing and will help participants develop basic business skills – at no cost. 53 percent of adults have only an elementary-school level education and their only option was to end their formal education so they can get to work in order to help provide for their family. In addition to the classes, the Training Depot will provide the inventory necessary for these micro-entrepreneurs to be successful. This supply will include shoes, sneakers, purses, stuffed animals, clothing and cell phone chargers.

The Depot will serve as the first micro-enterprise training and support center in the country of Haiti, and in partnership with local educators and trainers, Funds2Orgs will be able to expand its current community outreach efforts and also manage and eventually grow the Depot.

Micro-entrepreneurs who participate in the Depot’s programs will have the benefit of financing their own initial inventory via Funds2Orgs and paying the organization upon the replenishment of an order. The micro-entrepreneurs are required to attend classes and will be further incentivized with paid stipends and discounts on their inventory.

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