Power of Local Leadership in Haiti

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By Daniel Tillias
2018 Global Fellow, Haiti

So thank you to the whole Goldin Institute network, who have been very gracious by reaching out and sharing their words of sympathy for what happened in Haiti this past Saturday. The intense earthquake affected mostly the Southwestern part of the country. My community is based in the Southern East part of Haiti and while we could feel it, we were fortunate not to have been actually affected in terms of damages to our homes and neighborhoods.

While our buildings at SAKALA were spared, as a nation we are mourning for the souls of over 2,000 people who have been registered as dead and those of over 5,000 who have been injured.

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It is painful to see the overall lack of the coordination and organization of an appropriate response, which is not visible yet.

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Unfortunately, right after the devastating earthquake, there was also a tropical storm -- the Grace storm -- which hit Haiti and the Southern parts of the island. Many of those who became displaced or lost their homes during the earthquake were then exposed to the heavy rainfall and flooding resulting from the storm, further adding trauma to the victims of the earthquake.

So now it is a very difficult time for Haiti, as we were already dealing with a lot of political instability and were trying to get back on our feet. Right now, we are calling friends from all over the world to stand in solidarity with us.

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At SAKALA we have been reaching out to our friends, colleagues, others in our network who are based in the affected areas and calling on them to support our earthquake response efforts. We have students and staff who are now distributing food there, but we are limited in what we can provide. Our friends there are working to mobilize resources and help identify communities that are most in need. We are working with our contacts in the affected area to establish what the community needs, so they can become empowered rather than expecting supplies to come from abroad; we do not want to create a situation where local people end up closing their businesses as a result of aid and external supplies which will see local shops lose customers and force them to lose their livelihoods.

We must learn from the mistakes from the response to the 2010 earthquake. We need to sustain local businesses. We must invest in Haitian communities and businesses and use their services in this disaster relief as much as possible.

2021Sakala06We continue to call for solidarity and ask for prayers from everyone. We hope that Haiti will have a better approach to the situation than the one adopted ten years ago following the 2010 earthquake. We need to ensure we are investing in and centring local community-based organizations, who should be leading the disaster response, as they will continue working in the country beyond this short-term earthquake relief period. I am pretty sure that Haiti will stand up again, but it would require support from our friends who are engaging with local leaders and partners in Haiti.

Thank you once again to the strong network of the Goldin Institute for reminding us that we are not alone and for walking with us. Thank you to all the GATHER Alumni for sharing sympathy and solidarity with me. Keep up the good work!

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