I would like to reach out to every one of you that has or is currently assisting my work to raise up the organized poor in rural Haiti. I offer my heartfelt gratitude to each and every one who has shown solidarity with the Haitian people. You have each been a blessing for me. As I like to say to the Lord: bring me your best friends and please keep the rest for yourself! Well, truly, you are each the best of friends!
You may remember a time when I shared with you the true vision of my work. I like to describe the three parts of this work using the metaphor of a three-legged stool. The three legs of the stool needed to assure the creation of wealth and sustainability in rural Haiti are local grassroots organizations, higher education and economic opportunity. Each leg is important. But, for the stool to be strong and support true change all three legs must be in solidarity. While there has been substantial movement in each of the three areas over the past thirty years It has not been easy to advance all three together. That is, until now!
Toward the end of 2016, The Raising Haiti Foundation (RHF), a US based 501(c)3 in support of the work of APF Haiti, conceived a plan and secured commitments to send eighteen high school students, three from each of six rural communities to the University of Fondwa for the term beginning March, 2017. Only the first year’s costs have been committed in the form of a loan but this is a big start.
I quickly realized that this was the perfect opportunity to begin to strengthen the local grassroots organizational capacity in those six communities. So, a plan was quickly set in motion to make that happen. We are still struggling to find all the funding needed to complete this process but we are confident that those resources will flow and we have not hesitated. APF-Haiti is already engaged in raising up and training some Local Development Committees in six States.
I support this project 100% and have asked my friends from the RHF to follow up with you and to see how best that you can get involved with us in this beautiful project. It is my greatest hope and prayer that this new small pilot project launched by Raising Haiti will find your support. To download a pdf of the 3 Legs Project CLICK HERE.
Thanks so much again for your attention and for great solidarity with us. May the Lord keep you and shine his blessings upon you and your family, upon your projects and all of your loved ones.
Father Joseph Philippe
DOWNLOAD A PDF OF FATHER JOSEPH'S MESSAGE
Haiti is the poorest nation in the Americas1 and the twentieth (20th) poorest country in the world.2 The recent impact of Hurricane Matthew and the devastating effect of the earthquake of 2010 have generated a great deal of sympathy and outpouring of assistance by the international community. Those of us who live in first world countries relate and respond to these kinds of emergencies. The sad reality is that much of our response, as well-meaning as it may be, is so often misplaced and the result less than effective.
An insightful January, 2015 NBC News article poses this question in its title: "What Does Haiti Have to Show for $13 Billion in Earthquake Aid?”3 Despite the outpouring of billions of dollars by countless numbers of international NGOs most Haitians continue, as they have for decades, living in a perpetual state of emergency. The Haitian peoples’ best days, absent the periodic disaster, are far more challenging than our worst days subsequent to such tragic occurrences.
Those of us living in first-world conditions are hard-pressed to relate to the pervasive Haitian condition. Imagine growing up in a rural community without a road where the only access to and from home is a four hour jaunt on foot or by mule-back. Imagine living in a community with no clean water, no health care, no schools, no jobs. Imagine struggling to feed and care for your family on less than $3 per day.4 This is the reality of life for most of Haiti’s rural poor. This is the reality of Haiti. 75% of the Haitian population lives in one of 570 rural communities.5 Some of these communities, through the generous assistance and support of many good hearts, have begun to advance from the lowliest of material conditions but the road ahead is long and arduous.
While we have the resources that can help the Haitians begin to alleviate this state of perpetual emergency we must be humble enough to realize that possessing material resources does not necessarily mean that we have the answers or can define the path toward solutions within a context that for most of us is simply inconceivable.
So, where might we look for answers? Perhaps to the Haitians themselves. If necessity is the mother of invention adversity may well be its father. There is an amazing Catholic priest with roots in a small rural town south of Port au Prince called Fondwa. Father Joseph Philippe, rising himself from most humble rural beginnings, has worked tirelessly for more than thirty years raising up his fellow Haitians.
A recent documentary, ‘Father Joseph’ now streaming on Netflix, tells the story of this man’s life, the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that he has faced, his indomitable spirit and the countless victories he has won against all odds.
Father Joseph offers a uniquely clear vision of hope for Haiti’s future. It is both elegant in its simplicity and realistically pragmatic. He refers to the idea metaphorically. “What Haiti needs”, says Father Joseph, "are three important factors working together. Think of three-legs of a stool. A stool can’t stand on one or two legs, can it? All three of the legs need to be strong for the stool to stand upright!”
This is the 3 Legs solution
Since more than 75% of Haiti’s population resides within rural, farm-based communities6 that have been ignored for the most part by the country’s successive regimes and much of the international community whose efforts of support are often directed at more populous cities like Port au Prince, Father Joseph’s sole focus is in creating wealth within Haiti’s myriad rural communities. His work to date has already had significant impact.
The first leg of Father Joseph’s stool is local grassroots organization. He admonishes his fellow Haitians to awaken to the reality that if they want the living conditions in Haiti to change they will need to make that change happen themselves. In 1988, Father Joseph established Asosyasyon Peyizan Fondwa (the Association of the Peasants of Fondwa / APF). While APF has dedicated itself to the pressing needs of the Fondwa community it is organized as a national NGO and in 2009 was recognized as such by the government of Haiti. It provides an example for other local rural grassroots organizations and offers training and guidance rooted in its own learning and experience. The Raising Haiti Foundation has as one of its chief goals support for and empowerment of the work of the Asosyasyon Peyizan Fondwa.
One of APF Haiti’s first local tasks was to build an access road to Fondwa. The road had to be built by hand and took the community some fifteen years to complete. Only recently has the main part of the road been paved. In Fondwa, APF has also developed a primary and secondary school serving some 700 students, an orphanage, a health clinic, a community radio station, programs in renewable energy, water purification, reforestation and agriculture and a variety of small business ventures. Devastated by the 2010 earthquake whose epicenter was very close to Fondwa (and which destroyed most of the structures that had been built over the previous two decades) and again in 2016 by Hurricane Matthew, APF continues to forge ahead, helping the community turn crises into victory.
In 2008 APF hosted in Fondwa Haiti’s first national peasants associations’ congress. Haitian professionals and specialists came to help the attendees analyze productive ways to respond to the needs of local communities including providing guidance for local communities to gain access to public and private partnerships and to consider ways and means of creating wealth in rural Haiti.
Building on these efforts, In 2013, Caritas Italiana provided APF with a substantial grant to undertake a pilot project, researching the current state of organization within forty communities spanning four states (South-East, West, The Artibonite Valley and the Central Plateau). Some 400 grassroots organizations were identified with 36 groups being formed by bringing together members from among selected organizations. Thus was born a structure that APF now refers to as Local Development Committees (LDC). These consultative bodies provide a collaborative approach designed to bring together a local communities’ often fragmented actors.
The second leg of the stool is the creation of a model for economic development. Father Joseph understands that while much assistance has been rendered Haiti over the past several decades through important enterprises such as the building of primary and secondary schools in local communities, educating students within these rural communities will continue to be of little avail without wealth creation. There is an urgent need to help identify resources at the local level and to provide sustainability through the development and maintenance of those resources within the local communities.
In 1994, Father Joseph founded Fonkoze which over the past two decades has grown from a single office into Haiti’s largest micro finance institution. With some 45 branches spanning the entire country, this extraordinary institution employees over 1,000 Haitians, manages 250,000 accounts and provides loans for some 60,000 clients, 97% of which are rural women living in the direst of financial conditions. In addition to financial services, Fonkoze’s many branches provide a wealth of additional services in literacy and accounting training and a variety of other social services. In 2016, USAID awarded Fonkoze $18,000,000 to be paid over five years for its outstanding work in rural community health services.
Small business projects launched by APF in Fondwa provide a model for the manner in which local organization and ingenuity can be combined to begin the process of wealth creation within Haiti’s myriad rural communities. APF will work closely with the local LDCs, the community’s UNIF graduates and the university in an effort to create income producing ventures, sustainable businesses and economic development projects. This aspect of the 3 Legs project is referred to as the Small Business Incubator. 3 Legs will encourage conversations about business possibilities at the local level and attempt to raise funding to help launch those initiatives which hold the greatest promise of sustainability.
The third leg of the stool is higher education. At present Less than 1% of high school graduates in Haiti attend post-secondary education5. Less than 25% of those who do complete college remain in Haiti6. The brain-drain is among the worst in the world.
Further, university level education has been concentrated mostly in Haiti’s more populous centers and has done little to promote the principles of rural-based wealth creation.
So, in 2004, at the 200th anniversary of Haiti’s independence, Father Joseph presented his country with a gift in the form of the creation of the University of Fondwa (UNIF), Haiti’s only rural university. UNIF’s focus is providing higher education toward the specific goal of developing wealth in Haiti’s rural communities. The university offers three degrees - agronomy, veterinary medicine and business administration. While additional degree programs are planned, Father Joseph believes that these three disciplines provide the most fundamental foundation necessary for the creation of wealth within the farm-based communities of rural Haiti. His hope is to return students educated in these respective fields to their home communities providing a growing resource of Haitian professionals throughout the 570 communal sections.
As of Fall 2016-17 the University of Fondwa serves some 90 students. Expansion to accommodate students from rural communities throughout the country is planned over the coming decade.
In late 2016, the Raising Haiti Foundation launched its Rural Development Scholarship Initiative (RDSI) as part of the 3 Legs project. The goal of the scholarship campaign is to raise funding in the US in order to provide qualified students from Haiti’s rural communities student loans to be forgiven (converted to scholarships) in exchange for three-years of post graduate service in the student’s home community. The pilot phase of the project currently being implemented will add eighteen students selected by six respective Local Development committees for attendance beginning Spring, 2017.
Father Joseph has had much success over the past thirty years fostering development of each of the three “legs”: movement toward community organization (APF), economic development (the establishment of Fonkoze and a host of small business ventures) and higher education (the creation and evolution of UNIF).
We are now poised to begin to realize the power in the combining all three elements into one cohesive enterprise - the integration of Father Joseph’s vision.
Over the past few years a number of resources have coalesced toward the realization of this integrated vision. Various organizations that have been spawned by or drawn to assist the work of Father Joseph and many informal groups and collections of individuals who have come to his aid over the past three decades are now rallying around a single, concentrated focal point.
Father Joseph’s vision for APF is to begin the process of developing and training LDCs, welding together the often disparate actors within the many rural communities throughout Haiti. Communities will be selected to participate in the project based on the strength of their local grassroots organizations and will be motivated to make efforts toward maturation based on the resources that the project will bring to the table as follows:
Father Joseph’s vision for developing an economic engine at the rural community level is to inspire the LDCs, in concert with the larger local community to consult about small business ventures that can be easily funded and which hold maximum promise of returning sustainable economic results.
His vision for the University of Fondwa is to begin a steady flow, in threes, of capable high school graduates who will study and attain degrees, one in each of the three bachelor programs offered by UNIF: agronomy, veterinary medicine and business administration and then to return them as university graduates to their home communities for a period of service.
In December, 2016, the Raising Haiti Foundation, in hopes of collaborating with APF Haiti, UNIF USA and UNIF Haiti, determined to launch the initial (pilot) phase of the Three Leg Project.
Six promising rural communities were selected by APF Haiti based on criteria developed during the 2013 Caritas Italiana funded local community organizational research project. Each of these communities had or are now developing Local Development Committees with APF Haiti’s assistance and training.
A loan in the amount of $75,000 to launch the scholarship portion of the project was secured by the Raising Haiti Foundation. 80% of these proceeds ($60,000) will be used to fund the first year cost for fifteen high school graduates to attend the University of Fondwa. Three students from each of five communities will be selected by each community’s Local Development Committee to receive student loans which will be forgiven and converted to scholarships after the recipient completes three years of post graduate service in his or her home community.
An Arlington Virginia based Catholic Parish (Our Lady Queen of Peace) has committed to funding three scholarships for a sixth community (Medor) that it has twinned with for nearly two decades though the Parish Twinning Program of the Americas. This additional community will become the sixth participant in the initial pilot phase of the project.
Dr. Sue Carlson, Raising Haiti’s Rural Scholarship administrative director will spend six weeks in Haiti from mid January through February, 2017 meeting with APF and its team of trainer-animators and visiting the six pilot communities to provide additional guidance, to meet with the Local Development Committees and the selected scholarship candidates and to assess the project’s early development.
The Parish Twinning Program of the Americas has developed working relationships between some 300 Catholic parishes in the United States and an equal number of counterpart parishes throughout much of rural Haiti. In January, 2017 an agreement was reached between that organization and the Raising Haiti Foundation to make efforts to introduce the 3 Legs initiative in rural Haitian communities with existing robust, long standing twinning relationships. It is felt that this partnership is a perfect fit inasmuch as those communities have developed strong relationships with their US counterparts, members of whose congregations typically visit Haiti regularly, have already experienced some level of community organization, have built schools already producing high school graduates and have a fundraising mechanism in place to help fund a considerable portion of the costs associated with the campaign. On the other hand, most twinning groups would attest to the fact that the the three components featured in the initiative when applied in combination will offer the best possible way forward to move their respective communities toward greater sustainability.
An additional approach that Raising Haiti Foundation intends to take throughout the 2017 year is to reach out to a variety of potential foundations and other funding sources where we believe the notion of local grassroots empowerment combined with our focus of increasing fundamental rural skills through higher education with local college graduates returning to their home communities and the beginnings of the creation of economic opportunity through the small business incubator will be seen as a unique, comprehensive approach to generating sustainability. The fact that the vision is Haitian born and RHF’s intent to bring partial funding through its own efforts should enhance the total package to be considered by these various institutions.
Funding for the 3 Legs initiative will be sought for participating Haitian communities on an community-by-community basis. Individuals, corporations, churches, social organizations twinning parishes, foundations and other institutional funders will be invited to sponsor a given rural Haitian community in whole or in part. Social media based systems are being developed to connect funders with the students, their families, the respective LDCs and communities that their support is directly impacting. Beyond mere transparency, it is hoped that these systems will provide an ongoing inspirational birds-eye view into each community’s progress.
One of the greatest challenges that Father Joseph has faced over the years has been keeping APF-Haiti funded adequately to solve the many problems that Fondwa has faced and to train other local communities’ LDCs. In an effort to empower APF to assist other communities in the creation of wealth a funding model has been developed that includes a fee of $15,000 per community for training purposes which will take place during the project’s first year.
$70,000 per community will be allocated for the funding of three full term scholarships. 20% will be allocated to the Raising Haiti Foundation for administrative costs. 80% of the funding will be paid to UNIF on behalf of the selected students and will cover, room, board and tuition. Funding will be at the rate of $4,000 per year per student.
$15,000 per community will be allocated for small business loans for businesses approved by each community’s LDC in concert with APF and RHF.
The project’s pilot phase will require an initial budget of $100,000 per each of six communities for a total of $600,000. These funds will be required over a 5-year period with approximately 50% needed in the first year. The remaining 50% can be in the form of future pledges.
DOWNLOAD A PDF OF THE THREE LEG PROJECT
Are you inspired by the 3 Legs vision and want to get involved?
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1718 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 201 • Washington, DC 20009
PO Box 21624 • Washington, DC 20009
phone: (202) 800-7077
Raising Haiti Foundation is an authorized business name for Association of the Peasants of Fondwa, USA Inc., a District of Columbia 501(c)3 charitable entity.