GIBSONIA, Pennsylvania — Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world and faces chronic poverty. The country and its capital, Port-au-Prince, are in need of aid in several different areas, such as economic development and education. Hope for Haiti is a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing poverty in southern Haiti and improving the quality of life for the Haitian people, particularly women and children. Their efforts have had a significant effect on Haiti’s poverty crisis. The Borgen Project spoke with Hope for Haiti CEO Skyler Badenoch on some of the work Hope for Haiti had done in southern Haiti.
Haiti’s Turbulent History
Haiti is the poorest country in Latin America and the Caribbean, with its poverty rate at nearly 60%. In 2021, acute food insecurity affected 4.3 million people in Haiti, comprising approximately 44% of the population. Gang violence and kidnappings have exacerbated the poverty crisis in Haiti, particularly in the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince.
During the past few years, Haiti’s economy has been under pressure due to several factors such as natural disasters, diseases, political instability and the devaluation of its national currency. The country’s previously thriving tourism industry has declined as well. In contrast to the peak of 1.3 million tourists in 2018, which brought in $620 million in revenue, Haiti only received 938,000 visitors in 2019. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic also significantly curtailed travel and economic activity.
In 2022, armed gangs fueled the economic crisis in Haiti with their actions, including blocking the southern entry to the nation’s capital, which isolated four departments from the rest of the country. These areas produce consumer goods supplied to Pourt-au-Prince, and the blockade damaged the country’s economy further during a severe nationwide fuel shortage.
Hope for Haiti and Economic Development
To diminish inequality and foster economic growth, Hope for Haiti engages in backing social entrepreneurs and enterprises by providing them with loans and grants. According to Hope for Haiti CEO Skyler Badenoch, “Grants have ranged from a couple of hundred dollars all the way up to one hundred thousand dollars.”
The organization holds the conviction that the establishment of a strong social entrepreneurship initiative in Haiti contributes to the advancement of its sustainable development programs, generating increased employment opportunities for both Haiti’s youth and other underserved communities across the nation. The organization focuses on “supporting entrepreneurs in the southern part of the country, who might be doing work like agricultural development, fishing, reforestation or any small sort of small business projects.”
Hope for Haiti and Education
A significant portion of Haitian youth remains deprived of access to a high-quality education. Educational institutions in Haiti grapple with issues pertaining to financial resources, educator training and the academic performance of students. These obstacles increase the challenge for children to break out of the cycle of poverty.
Hope for Haiti provides around 420 teachers and school directors with salary subsidies. “A lot of times teachers in Haiti get paid very little or sometimes they don’t get paid at all. And so that that we believe, factors into teacher performance, and so we use the stipend to help incentivize the teachers,” Badenoch says. At the same time, Hope for Haiti also provides training and professional development for teachers and other Haitians working in education. For the past 35 years, Hope for Haiti has also been focused on “making sure that the schools themselves have the proper infrastructure, meaning classrooms,” so they “build classrooms and we will build sanitation blocks if needed.” Efforts such as these help children in Haiti successfully obtain an education.
Lending a Hand
Badenoch encourages people to check out the Hope for Haiti Website, and “if they’re so inspired by the work that we do, [then]join us in making life better for individuals, families and communities in southern Haiti.” Another way to get involved is through advocacy. People’s voices can be just as powerful as donations. Finally, it’s important to stay informed. “I ask people [to]donate, advocate and self-inform or get informed because that’s gonna make you, I think, a better donor,” Badenoch says.
– Marisa Del Vecchio