The devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake hit university students and professors in a particular way since most colleges begin courses at 5 p.m. Approximately 6,000 college students and 200 professors died that day. In a context where more than half of the population does not know how to read, this impact is particularly severe. Once again, philanthropy has been a key element to embrace rebuilding efforts to society. Puerto Rico and Caribbean countries are playing an important role in those efforts.
The experience and knowledge built by the Puerto Rico Community Foundation (PRCF) during its 25 years of existence proved to be essential to draft and execute long-term plans for Haiti. This knowledge and experience aligned PRCF with Haiti’s long-term reconstruction goals which translated into the New Haiti Project. This project focuses in four main areas: 1) higher education through the Solidary University of the Caribbean; a concept integrating academic institutions in Puerto Rico to facilitate Haitian students’ completion in Puerto Rico, or through distance learning from Haiti, of college degrees, with the goal of encouraging and engaging young professionals in Haiti’s rebuilding efforts; 2) organizational development for NGO’s working with vulnerable groups, 3) human rights monitor, and 4) basis for a community foundation to maximize execution of local organizations. The New Haiti project attests to PRCF’s commitment with its Caribbean neighbors beyond geographical borders.
While much of the attention turned onto the billions of dollars pledged, there are significant opportunities to continue building bridges for a stronger human infrastructure in Haiti. Haiti counts with talented human resources, social spirit, and encouragement to achieve new opportunities. Haiti’s example of resiliency has become a model to the world. Our challenge as philanthropic organizations continues in designing innovative roads to guarantee tools that promote substantial changes by empowering local people, communities, and organizations. After a year, we all are witnesses that Haiti still needs us. Have you done your part in convening talents and tools that can continue connecting bridges to further develop the human capital in Haiti?
Nelson I. Colón Tarrats is executive president of the Puerto Rico Community Foundation (www.fcpr.org).