Friday morning we gathered over early-morning coffee and pastries with some of Architecture for Humanity's Haiti partners, funders and interested parties to talk about progress, setbacks and the way forward in rebuilding efforts. Save the Children Haiti Country Director Gary Shaye visited, along with Inveneo Co-founder Mark Summer and Lisa Victor from BAR Architects, both of whom also just returned from Haiti. Our Chief Eternal Optimist, Cameron Sinclair, talked about Architecture for Humanity's work building back better, and Eric Cesal called in via video conference to provide an on-the-ground perspective as the regional program manager in Haiti.
The discussion was candid and Shaye talked about the challenges facing the various nonprofit and government organizations that are working in Haiti. He addressed the question asked of Save the Children and many other nonprofits: "Why aren't you doing more in the face of such need?" It's the magnitude of the need in Haiti that makes it difficult to maintain perspective, Shaye said. Indeed much progress is being made, and collaborations between partners such as Save the Children, Inveneo and Architecture for Humanity allow each to focus on their areas of expertise yet work together to ensure progress.
Cesal has been working in Haiti since right after the earthquake. He said much of 2010 was spent understanding the problem and learning the capacity of the local community, as Architecture for Humanity focuses on training and enabling local Haitians to rebuild. Our Year in Review details our impact for nearly 40 thousand design and construction beneficiaries. Cesal recalled visiting one of the tent camps soon after the earthquake with a fellow Architecture for Humanity team member. Included among the thousands of Haitians struggling to survive, were skilled professionals, masons and architects. Those are the people Architecture for Humanity is engaging through training, consumer education, and professional referrals at our Rebuilding Center.
Lisa Victor from BAR Architects was one of the firm's employees who pooled her vacation time to travel to Haiti to work with our team for a brief stint. The experience is still fresh in her mind, as are the mosquito bites on her hands. She can't shake one memory in particular of a woman she'd seen in the street, who was dressed in brightly colored clothes and looked buoyant despite the bleak surroundings. She was told this woman had lost her children in the earthquake. "Everyone has a story," Victor said. "Though they seem resilient, they've all been affected."
Through continued collaboration between partners and funders who care about those affected by the January 2010 earthquake, such as those who came to our coffee klatch this Friday, we can help revive Haiti's economy and build a brighter, more sustainable future.