Commemorating Twenty Years of FIDA in Haiti

The following remarks are excerpted from an address Janet Bauman, FIDA/pcH Country Manager, Haiti, gave during FIDA’s twentieth anniversary fundraising banquet. The gala evening was held November 19, 2004 at Bingemans in Kitchener.

I want to explain what the vision and leadership Jack and Anne Wall have provided, both in Haiti and in Canada, have meant to me. One of the greatest gifts they have given to the organization was to inspire their daughter Betsy, now Executive Director, with the qualities to invest in the vision, to take up the torch of leadership, and to carry it forward.

Betsy, like Jack and Anne, easily grasps the concept of how to be a facilitator, how to stand out of the way personally in order to allow the true experts to emerge in doing this work of helping Haitians help themselves. They understand the principle of going to Haiti with a question on their lips instead of offering a solution formulated miles away in an entirely different country and context.

This posture, this approach, makes a world of difference in how we are received in Haiti. It also makes a world of difference to me. Jack, Anne and Betsy each share a deep appreciation for the citizens of their other country, Ayiti, as we say in Kreyòl.

I hope I can be like Jack and Anne when I reach the age of 60. Imagine, they took the sum of their life experiences and pioneered a new work in Haiti. What a bold move they made 20 years ago. We are here today to celebrate their efforts and their achievements.

Their respect for Haiti is obvious, visible, and it enables us to be effective. Respect is a word we use frequently in our daily work. When I look to hire new staff, I stress the importance of this approach. We train staff, such as our receptionist, to receive the farmers, who make the long trip from their fields in the mountains to visit our offices in the capital city as if they were receiving a dignitary from the government.

We believe our beneficiaries are the most important relationships we have and we want them to feel they are respected. I am sometimes late for meetings with the Canadian Embassy because of an unscheduled visit from cooperative leaders who got up at four o’clock in the morning, walked down the mountain, caught a tap-tap, and rode for hours to arrive at the pcH office unannounced. An important way to show respect in Haiti is to give of your time.

In Haiti the pcH staff are professionals who are highly devoted to helping their country to be healed and to be transformed. We work individual by individual, farmer by farmer, young girl by young boy to help discover ways they can help themselves.

We feel we have achieved our goal when we succeed in helping a woman realize she has the ability and resources within herself to transform her life. It may be a small revelation, such as the woman who just learned to read and write. She can sign her name on her marriage certificate instead fo stamping her thumb on the inkpad. This small act enables her to face her husband with self-worth instead of shame. Her comportment will change and she will no longer accept beatings from her husband.

Men also learn alternatives to violence when trying to resolve conflicts. Their children, therefore, will not enter the cycle of violence that is often the solution to the frustration an illiterate person experiences. Both men and women are learning new ways of cooperating and managing their frustrations. These small but permanent changes make a mighty difference in the lives of thousands of people that FIDA touches.

FIDA is twenty years old. I have had the privilege of working with FIDA for nearly five years. There have been challenges, sometimes they appeared larger than I could manage, but I always, always felt that in working together with my senior management team, we would find solutions together. This team includes Pierre Richard Pierre and Cassandre Jerome, who are here with me and Vincent Jean Elto, who we left back in Haiti to hold everything together. I have learned so much. I am richer and a different person today for having walked this road in Haiti.

In closing, I would like to share one small thing that I have learned from living in Haiti. I learned it while watching a cock fight in Fon Batis and I believe it sums up the indefatigable spirit of Haiti that I find so admirable: the winner is the one who doesn’t run away. The winner is the one who doesn’t give up. So, never give up!

I believe I am just one amongst thousands of people in Haiti who would like to extend their gratitude and thanks to you, Jack and Anne. These are people who have passed through Wall’s International Guest House, gone on a Haiti Adventure Tour, voiced a prayer, contributed financially. These are people who sit in a literacy class and can now read and write, a farmer who received a loan for crop planting, or who now makes more money because he knows how to plant cabbage or broccoli. We are from all walks of life.

Thank you for seeking me out, for intriguing me with your philosophy, and entrusting me to carry on your vision in Haiti.

by Janet Bauman, FIDA-pcH Country
Manager, Haiti

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