Lessons Learned in Haiti: Why Donor Support Is Essential to Long-term Recovery After Disasters

May 02, 2023
Group of people surveying destruction from hurricane - Hope for Haiti

In this episode of the Caring and Funding Podcast, CAF America’s President & CEO, Ted Hart is joined by Hope for Haiti’s CEO, Skyler Badenoch to share his organization’s experiences in providing disaster relief after the 2010 and 2021 earthquakes, and explore the topics of:

  • Best practices in disaster response and lessons learned from the 2010 earthquake,
  • The importance of long-term recovery and resilience-building, and
  • Why it is important for donors to consider these long-lasting efforts in their disaster response planning.

About Hope for Haiti
Hope for Haiti, one of CAF America’s grantee partners, is a trusted nonprofit organization working to improve the quality of life for the Haitian people, particularly children, in southern Haiti. Their team and network of partners provide people with better access to education, healthcare, water, and economic development opportunities.

Episode Transcript


Speaker: Learn how to take your caring and giving farther with The Caring and Funding Podcast powered by CAF America. CAF America, America’s leader in cross-border philanthropy, helps corporations, foundations, wealth advisors, and individuals who wish to give internationally and with enhanced to due diligence in the United States. Through its industry-leading grants management program and philanthropic advisory services, CAF America helps [00:00:30] donors amplify their impact and ensure their gifts are made in a safe and effective manner. This Caring and Funding Podcast is dedicated to these donors and the charities they support.

Our guests are leaders in their field who join us to share tips for success and stories that inspire. Our host is Ted Hart, the CEO of CAF America. After the show, you can find all our podcasts at cafamerica.org on iTunes, and now, just say Alexa, play CAF [00:01:00] America on TuneIn. Now, welcome to host of CAF America’s Caring and Funding Podcast, Ted Hart.

Ted Hart: Welcome to this latest edition of The Caring and Funding Podcast. Throughout the past few years, CAF America has been actively engaged in responding to a range of global emergencies, including the bushfires in Australia, June of 2019, the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020, Hurricane Ida in [00:01:30]2021, the earthquake in Haiti and floods in Germany, Hurricane Ian in 2022, and Russia’s war against Ukraine. Most recently, we’ve also witnessed the devastating earthquake along the Turkey-Syria border. Through these experiences, CAF America has consistently recognized the effective international philanthropy required for proactive planning and collaborative partnership mindset.

We’ve also gained valuable insights from [00:02:00] these past crises that inform our future strengths. Today, we’re joined by Hope for Haiti CEO, Skyler Badenoch, to discuss the organization’s experience in providing humanitarian response after the destructive earthquakes affected Haiti in both 2010 and 2021. Skyler, will share some of the lessons Hope for Haiti learned from the 2010 earthquake and how they applied those new solutions during the [00:02:30] response work in 2021. Importantly, what roles donors have played in supporting long-term recovery after the disaster occurs?

Hope for Haiti is a trusted nonprofit organization working to improve the quality of life for Haitian people, particularly children in southern Haiti. Their team and network of partners provide people with better access to education, healthcare, water, and economic development opportunities. Skyler, thank you for [00:03:00] joining us here today.

Skyler Badenoch: Thank you so much for having me on today, Ted.

Ted: Can you tell us a little bit more about Hope for Haiti and the work that you’re doing around the country?

Skyler: Absolutely. Hope for Haiti is a nonprofit organization that works to improve the quality of life for people in Haiti, particularly women, and children. We’ve been focused on doing that work for more than 34 years. The work is focused on providing support to communities, to individuals, to [00:03:30] families, to improve access to education and health care, water sanitation, and hygiene, and economic opportunity in the southern part of Haiti. One of our primary goals at Hope for Haiti is to improve access to education. We partnered with 24 schools in southern Haiti to improve the quality of access to education. Then in addition to that, our organization works with local communities to improve access to health care, clean water, and other basic needs.

One of the main things we really [00:04:00] focus on in our work is really empowering communities by providing training and resources to help them become self-sufficient, and this includes programs focused on agriculture, entrepreneurship, and also financial literacy. Lastly, because of the nature of our work in the geographic area where we work, oftentimes we find ourselves responding to natural disasters, earthquakes, hurricanes, obviously, the recent pandemic. We consider ourselves working in an almost a disaster setting in a crisis, [00:04:30] and so organization is also equipped to respond to large and small disasters in the country.

Ted: In January of 2010, a 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti, just west of Port-au-Prince. After two months, the Haitian government estimated that over 200,000 people had died in the events itself and its aftermath. When the earthquake happened, how was Hope for Haiti affected and how was your staff?

Skyler: [00:05:00] It was a really difficult time, obviously, to be in Haiti. Personally, I flew down to Haiti the day before the earthquake. While I wasn’t working at Hope for Haiti at the time, I was staying at their guesthouse. They were friends of mine and a trusted partner of the organization that I was working with, and so I had a really, I think, unique viewpoint of seeing how Hope for Haiti responded. The one thing that really resonates to me when I think about [00:05:30] that time was that everybody in Haiti was directly or indirectly impacted.

Because Hope for Haiti was a little bit outside of the epicenter, our organization, our leaders, were able to spring into action, mobilize resources, and provide immediate support, not in the days, but in the hours just after the earthquake. Hope for Haiti’s team loaded up buses full of medication, medical supplies, and medical [00:06:00] equipment, mobilized medical personnel and went directly into the epicenter in the hours after the earthquake. That’s how they began their initial response.

Ted: I can tell by the way you answered that question that this became deeply personal for you. What kind of response was Hope for Haiti able to organize, and how were you able to help people at the earthquake in 2010?

Skyler: For me, what I saw were different phases. The first phase was just [00:06:30] immediate response. Anybody that needed life-saving medical attention, that’s where our organization was focused. We had medical staff on the ground. We had key logistical staff providing resources to get critical first aid supplies into triage centers. Our organization was led by our country director at the time, Mikey Stewart. Mikey was really leading the charge there and set up a triage center at one of the well-known [00:07:00] hotels in Haiti, where thousands of people arrived seeking access to really critical medical assistance.

Medical assistance came first, logistical support for emergency aid like medication, medical supplies, and medical equipment is a strength of our organization, so we focused on that. As that sense of urgency calmed a little bit, which it often does during natural disasters after the first two, three weeks, [00:07:30] that’s when our organization really started thinking about long-term recovery and how we support communities in and around Port-au-Prince during that time.

Ted: You went through a step-by-step process there where it’s medical and it’s very much that first two to three weeks, and then moving on from there. What did you learn from that experience in 2010?

Skyler: I think there are a number of things. Being so close to the epicenter and the recovery efforts, there are a handful of [00:08:00] things that come to mind. The first was that collaboration is critical. What I mean by that is that as soon as a disaster happens, there are people who want to respond, and we can be more effective if we work together. That was something that we recognized very quickly. It was something that was reinforced after Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Certainly, something that we took advantage of is [00:08:30] collaboration being one of our core values when we were responding to the 2021 earthquake. Collaboration is critical.

That’s why it’s so important. When you see a natural disaster, the organizations that are working on the ground, they have the existing partnerships that enable collaboration to happen quickly, efficiently, and organically. Then secondly, really community-led development is so important. Now, we know when a natural disaster happens in Haiti, earthquake, hurricane, or whatever it may be, [00:09:00] what we like to do is really rely on community leaders and even local governments. The Haitian government, the first challenge, it is, gets a bad reputation. What we found even in this last earthquake in 2021 was the Haitian government, they took a lead, and they told us what to do and where they needed help.

That’s where we were able to fall in line as an organization and say, “They’re asking us to do mobile clinics in these heavily impacted areas, let’s have local leaders lead, and we can play our role [00:09:30] for sure.” We found that preparation is essential. The earthquake in Haiti highlighted the importance of disaster preparedness and resilience-building measures. Organization even today, focuses on making sure that we have enough fuel on hand in case of a disaster and even cash reserves so that we can quickly respond to the needs of affected populations. That’s been really essential in our response to [00:10:00] disasters after 2010, like Hurricane Matthew and the 2021 earthquake.

Then the other thing is flexibility is really necessary. When a disaster happens, things can change very rapidly. Responders and organizations really have to be prepared to adapt to the response efforts accordingly. What we’ve learned is it’s just so incredibly important to be flexible because you never know what needs are going to be most important right after a [00:10:30] disaster. That can change very quickly. Then lastly, and this is one thing that I feel very strongly about, is that recovery should be a long-term process. When you have major disasters like the 2010 earthquake or the 2021 earthquake, a lot of organizations tend to be pretty short-lived in their relief and recovery.

It may last a few months. What we’ve learned is that it’s really the organizations that are on the ground dedicated to long-term recovery that are able to make a difference in [00:11:00] improving the quality of life and people’s livelihoods after a disaster.

Ted: Skyler, I want to explore that a little bit further. Specifically one of the things that CAF America prides itself on is the ability to validate charities on the ground where the funds are needed most. Our donors really prize this opportunity to pinpoint where they would like their funds to go and be used as opposed to filtering it through a much larger organization, having a percentage of that [00:11:30] actually get to the ground. Can you speak about that funding that comes directly to an organization in a disaster area and where that fits for you?

Skyler: I think it’s absolutely critical. When I think of disaster response and organizations that work to support communities after a natural disaster, the local organizations that are already on the ground, who already know the partners, who know the communities, who speak the language and know the culture, [00:12:00] to me, are always the most effective and efficient. I think that strategy is exactly right because they’re closest to the work. Most likely those organizations are going to continue working long-term, and they’re not going to be hopping in and hopping out. That helps provide for more sustainable recovery.

Ted: We’re going to take a quick break and when we come back, I want to talk more about this concept of long-term recovery, so that long tail of [00:12:30] building resilience and recovery. We’ll be right back after this break.

Speaker: Remember, our podcasts and archives are always available 24 hours a day at cafamerica.org, on iTunes, or just say, “Alexa, play C-A-F America on TuneIn.” Now back to The Caring and Funding Podcast and our host, Ted Hart.

Ted: We’re here with hope for Haiti CEO Skyler Badenoch. Skyler, [00:13:00] you had raised this concept of long-term recovery before the break. Can you speak more about the long-term aspects of recovery that are so essential to rebuilding the lives of people affected by a disaster? What types of work and programs fall under a heading of maybe long-term recovery? In your experience during the 2010 earthquake recovery, did funding sustain long enough to support the aid that was needed? Help us understand why this is [00:13:30] important and quite honestly, what is it?

Skyler: It’s essential in helping rebuild lives and helping people who are affected by disasters. Listen, immediate emergency response is crucial to saving lives, and that’s part of the process. Taking this long-term approach is just as important. That’s one of the things that we’ve learned. Long-term recovery encompasses various types of Hope [00:14:00] for Haiti’s work. That could include things like infrastructure building. We’ve been focused on helping rebuild and reconstruct schools and healthcare facilities and other essential community infrastructure. Livelihood restoration, also very important. That’s at the individual level.

Individuals, families, and communities is something that we’ve found to be very important to focus on. That could be anything from providing new job opportunities, supporting local [00:14:30] businesses, providing skills, training, and providing resources for self-support. One of the things that we found right after many of the natural disasters that we responded to in Haiti was providing cash transfers to families was one of the most efficient, effective ways to support families, and so we did that. Then focusing on health and wellbeing. There’s a lot of physical, emotional health issues that happen after a natural disaster.

[00:15:00] These are long-term support services, not just healthcare, but psychological support and awareness campaigns that we feel are important for long-term recovery. Education, also being the backbone of social and economic development. For us, reestablishing and improving educational facilities is always a priority. Getting schools back and running. We know that that’s vital for community and family growth. [00:15:30] Making sure that we’re also talking about disaster risk reduction and preparedness. Building community resilience and reducing vulnerability for future disasters I think is also critical.

We can achieve that through early warning systems, preparedness training, and then focusing on those infrastructure improvements. Then to your question about the 2010 earthquake, definitely funding was a significant challenge. There’s a lot of narratives about what [00:16:00] happened and what should have been done differently and things that went wrong. There was that initial flux of aid for sure, and it eventually tapered off and some of it wasn’t used as efficiently. I think that really highlights the importance of sustained funding and support to local organizations who are on the ground.

That’s really why at Hope for Haiti, like I said, we’re really striving to maintain this long-term commitment to communities that we serve, so that [00:16:30] our work extends beyond the immediate relief efforts. That’s really where we tend to focus right after the disaster. It’s served our organization and the communities we work with very well.

Ted: Your dedication to the people of Haiti is very clear, and they needed that again in 2021. A further 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck in the south of Haiti. While the death toll was somewhat lower, the [00:17:00] humanitarian crisis was quite intense. When the 2021 earthquake struck, how was Hope for Haiti able to implement some of the lessons learned in 2010?

Skyler: We were a much different organization in 2021, for sure. We had more capacity, more staff, more experience. One of the biggest differences for us was the earthquake in 2010 was in the Port-au-Prince area, [00:17:30] which was outside of where we were working. We weren’t as affected. We had staff who could drive in a couple of hours and respond. The 2021 earthquake was different because it was in our backyard, and it hit our team. It wasn’t lost on me that we were going to be asking our team members to be first responders, but they were also victims of the earthquake. Many of them lost their homes and had their homes damaged.

They had family members who were injured, they were scared, [00:18:00] many of them sleeping outside. Our response had to be different. When I look back, what we’ve learned is there’s four things you gotta do right after a disaster. The first one is you take care of your team. That’s non-negotiable. Then the second is you collect intel, you collect information. Third, you do an assessment on that intel. Then fourth, you create a plan. We’ve learned that those are the four main things that you do after a natural disaster from [00:18:30] responding to past disasters. We put that into action immediately.

Our team who could, our team in the United States, worked around the clock making sure that our team was taken care of, coming up with as much information as we had, so we can create an assessment. We made a plan, and then we put that plan into action. At one point we had this plan going dead. The plan that we put together called for $5 million of funding to support the long-term relief effort in the [00:19:00] southern part of the country. The problem was we didn’t have $5 million. We had to go out and do some fundraising around it, but we did. We were fortunate to get some donors who saw the value in our plan, and they allowed us to put it to work.

We wouldn’t have been able to respond the way we did if we hadn’t gone through what we went through in 2010, in 2016 with Hurricane Matthew, even with COVID, in responding to COVID. All of those things put our organization [00:19:30] in aposition of strength when it came to responding to this last 2021 earthquake. We talked a little bit, Ted, about the local organization. Like I said, the 2021 earthquake was right in our backyard. We knew the communities, we knew the names of the teachers and school directors who were affected, the families who we’ve been working with. This was even more personal to us.

We were also, as an organization, working in southern Haiti for more than 34 years [00:20:00] probably one of the best equipped to respond with people who were on the ground, who obviously are passionate about this work and able and capable to help respond in the way we did.

Ted: We’re approaching the second anniversary of the August 14th, 2021 earthquake in Haiti. Speak specifically to our donors who will be listening to this podcast. Are you still providing programming and aid related to the earthquake? [00:20:30] On a related note, when and how do you know that long-term recovery is complete or do you?

Skyler: I’m really proud of our team in the way that they stepped up. We have now 150 Haitian staff, doctors, nurses, educators, administrators, logisticians, all working to provide programming in aid related to the 2021 earthquake and also related to our normal poverty alleviation programs. Our initial response was really providing that [00:21:00] emergency relief, immediate relief, getting medical care, access to food and water and shelter into the hands of affected families. We’ve been working long-term, like we’ve talked about during this whole podcast and focusing on how we can help restore critical infrastructure.

I was just in Haiti three weeks ago, and we were inaugurating a seven -lassroom school that we built in partnership and collaboration with one of our partners, the Digicel Foundation, [00:21:30] at one of our partner schools. That doesn’t stop with that school. We finished that school, and we just broke ground on another seven-classroom school in a very remote community in the mountains that was impacted, called Baraderes. Their school was totally destroyed, totally destroyed, unusable. The rebuilding of schools and healthcare facilities takes a long time and many years, in fact. We’re continuing this work.

It’s not just the infrastructure. [00:22:00] Our healthcare team has been scaling up their work, and we’re out there doing mobile clinics at the direction of the Ministry of Health, as they’ve asked us to, five times a week. That has not ended since the earthquake. We’ve continued that work. Now, you ask, “How do you know when it’s time to stop?” There’s a couple factors in there. One of them is obviously the funding. We were fortunate enough to get our plan funded that we put together, so this is a continuation of the [00:22:30] plan. The plan that we put together was a three-year plan to help support the longer-term recovery.

As long as we have resources available to continue to work, to support rebuilding of important community infrastructure, to help individuals, families, and communities gain more resilience for when the next natural disaster comes, we’re going to keep doing it. Certainly I think we’ll probably scale down some of the healthcare work we’re doing out in the rural countryside. We’ve been doing it for almost two years now and probably [00:23:00] is going to be concentrating more of our effort in healthcare, in the big city of Les Cayes, but we’ll see.

It really also depends, as you know, on the funding that’s available. We still stand today, staff of 150 in Haiti. They’re doing incredible work. I’m always in awe and inspired by the dedication and the passion of my colleagues. That’s why I love going down there so much and being part of their work and getting to see it firsthand.

Ted: We know there’s lots of work still left [00:23:30] to be done. I’m wondering if you could reflect on something that you said that I think is going to be really important to our donors. That is, while expertise may come from outside of Haiti, the solutions and the long-term resilience of these efforts from your perspective are very much focused on Haitians supporting and having the wherewithal to help Haitians. Talk a little bit about that aspect of it. Because I think for our donors, it’s important to know that there’s a local empowerment as opposed [00:24:00] to just everything being helicopterd in from outside of Haiti.

Skyler: I love the words, you used the word empowerment because that’s one of our core values at Hope for Haiti. I even consider my work as the CEO, one of the most important things that I do is I align the resources so that my colleagues in Haiti can do the work. Just as I said earlier, we have doctors who have been on our team for 10 years. [00:24:30] They’re from the community of Les Cayes, they’re from Southern Haiti. We have nurses who have been with us since the 2010 earthquake. Their dedication is unquestionable, and their work is so focused on how they can improve their own communities and their own country and their families.

I think when you have a situation where you can invest in local leadership, empower others to improve their own conditions, [00:25:00] then it becomes very clear on what the right way to do it is. That is, it’s just so much better, more efficient, more effective. It builds capacity when you’re able to empower and resource local leaders like we’ve been able to do.

Ted: These efforts for empowerment, preparedness, resilience building strategies that Hope for Haiti has put into place, speak again to our international donors. What role can [00:25:30] and should they be playing in supporting this type of work?

Skyler: As far as donors go, I think it’s really important for donors to understand the context of what’s going on in a country like Haiti. What challenges exist, whether it be challenges in health or education, access to clean water, economic opportunity, poverty alleviation. As donors become more educated, I think it’s [00:26:00] beneficial to those donors to know that they’re supporting and trust the organizations that they’re supporting on the ground. One of the things we haven’t really talked about, which I think is incredibly important, almost the most important thing we do as an organization is that we have systems of control and accounting that are best in class.

We’ve been fortunate, I think, from the get-go to have a culture of [00:26:30] being the best organization in governance, transparency and accountability. Our systems of controls, our audits, the ways that we account for every single dollar that a donor donates are incredibly important to us because without the trust of donors that we are going to not only do the work and make the impact, but we are going to be accountable to every single donor for the money that they generously give us is [00:27:00] so incredibly critical to philanthropy. We’re fortunate. We just got our clean audit. We were rated four-star, Charity Navigator, we got 100% score on Charity Navigator, GuideStar.

All those third-party charity rating organizations have taken a look at what we do and how we do it and gave us some of the highest ratings. We work so hard at it. That to me is another important thing for donors to know. There are so many resources today, Ted, [00:27:30] and I know CAF America does a really great job at providing donors with education. There’s so many great resources for donors to really understand, not just about the impact that organizations are making, but the efficiency, the transparency, and the accountability. Like I said, it’s almost as important as the impact itself.

Ted: Sure. Donors certainly care about impact. Building that trust and that accountability, as you said, are extremely important. I’m wondering [00:28:00] if you could– while it’s not a disaster that you’re directly involved with, again, speaking to our donors and giving them guidelines on things that they might look for, as responders in Turkey and Syria respond to another devastating earthquake, what advice or wisdom or even caution would you be able to share with organizations and responders and donors about what to learn for and adapt to help earthquake victims in the future?

Skyler: Yes. I love this question because I’ve been asked [00:28:30] it before based on my experience in Haiti. The first thing that really speaks to me is just telling people to go out and find that local organization that’s been working in the region that’s been affected by the earthquake in the communities that have been affected. Those organizations are, in my opinion, most likely going to be most efficient and most effective. They’re also going to be there for the long-term. Then [00:29:00] I think secondly, once you find those organizations, it’s still worth doing a deep dive on maybe those organizations if they have their financials listed or any transparency materials like financial audits that they might have on their websites.

I do that all the time when I think about organizations that I want to support. I would highly suggest doing that. Then think about the issues. There are so many issues even related to disaster relief that are important. [00:29:30] Education and healthcare and mental health and access to clean water. Those are all different areas where people need support after a disaster. Then the last one, Ted, and this is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot over the last five years, consider supporting organizations that make direct cash transfers to families. I say that because of my experience in what I’ve seen.

That sometimes a family doesn’t need [00:30:00] the donated clothes, or the donated food, or the donated whatever people want to give the, what they need is cash. Some organizations have found ways to provide very efficient, transparent cash to individuals who have been impacted so that they can go out in the local community and make purchases. I think it’s now widely accepted as a best practice that the more that international aid and [00:30:30] assistance can be used to make purchases supporting the local economy, the better that will be for the entire disaster prone region. Instead of sending in food from abroad, we’re buying local food that’s going to help support the local economy during a time of great need. I would definitely encourage donors to think with those nuances.

Ted: Thank you Skyler, for sharing your expertise and advice for thinking about future disaster [00:31:00] response strategies. I want to underscore how important our focus today on this podcast is for long-term recovery and disaster preparedness. Disaster response doesn’t end when the media stops covering it. As members of our philanthropic community, this is a critical lesson to remember when planning an effective and impactful disaster response giving program. Skyler, thank you for joining us today. We’re grateful to you as a partner, and we’re [00:31:30] very happy to partner with an organization like Hope for Haiti that is capable of providing emergency response and aid, while also focusing on building community resilience for the long-term.

As you mentioned today, focus that on Haitians themselves and their ability to be empowered and impactful in their own country. For more resources on what donors should be thinking about in order to respond quickly and effectively in times of crisis, please visit our website, [00:32:00] cafamerica.org, and click on podcast for additional information and to access this and many other informative podcasts and webinars provided by CAF America. Thank you for joining us today on The Caring and Funding Podcast.

Speaker: You’ve been listening to The Caring and Funding Podcast powered by CAF America. Tell all your friends and colleagues to check out our archives, sign up for our free newsletter and download our iPad and iPod-friendly podcasts at cafamerica.org. Thanks for listening to The Caring and Funding Podcast.

[00:32:39] [END OF AUDIO]

Listen to the Latest Episodes of the Caring and Funding Podcast

The Caring and Funding Podcast powered by CAF America celebrates philanthropy, donors, and charities working together around the globe making our world a better place for everyone. You can listen to each episode wherever you get your podcasts.

Make a Gift Today

With CAF America, you can confidently make a contribution to support an established fund or a validated international grantee.

Partner with a leader in cross-border giving

We invite you to ask us about giving through our vetted global network.

Join our mailing list

Stay up to date on the latest trends and stories in cross-border philanthropy.