lundi 24 février 2014

Nurse joins humanitarian mission to Haiti

Lending a hand: Registered Nurse Alisa Anguine
 leaves for Haiti this week on a humanitarian mission.
By Joseph Chin
MISSISSAUGA — On Wednesday, Alisa Anguine will be boarding a plane to the Caribbean.
Don’t, however, expect to find her on a sunny beach soaking up the rays and sipping a piña colada.
As tempting as that might be, the assistant director of nursing care at The Village of Erin Meadows in Mississauga isn’t trying to escape the harsh winter. Rather, she’s on a humanitarian mission to Haiti.
“No resort for me,” she laughs. “I’ll be working the entire 10 days.”
More than four years after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the Caribbean nation, killing a reported 250,000 people and leaving a million and a half homeless, Haiti still needs outside assistance to get

Last November Anguine, along with 26 other members of Schlegel Villages, which owns the Mississauga long-term care home, was presented with just such the opportunity.Lending a hand: Registered Nurse Alisa Anguine leaves for Haiti this week on a humanitarian mission.back on its feet.
“I was ecstatic when I was chosen,” says the 32-year-old Brampton resident, who moved to Canada from Jamaica when she was just 8. “It will be life-changing for me.”
The Canadian volunteers will be assigned roles based on their areas of interest and expertise. A registered nurse, Anguine will be working in a Port-au-Prince orphanage.
Before she could start packing her bags, Anguine had to raise nearly $1,900 to cover the cost of her trip. Three fundraising events — a 50/50 draw and two dinners — were held within The Village.
“It amazed me how willing everyone was — not only to participate in the planned events but also to give freely. I received donations from $5 to $250 from people who simply wanted to be a part of it,” she says.
“In total our team raised $2,620, far surpassing what I anticipated. Not only will this cover my trip but also allows us to give a sizeable donation of $760 to Haiti Communitere to use towards their various initiatives.”
Located in Port-au-Prince, Haiti Communitere is an agency that provide logistics for international groups to launch aid projects. It also runs numerous community projects on its own.
Anneliese Krueger, the general manager of The Village of Erin Meadows, says Anguine is the ideal volunteer for the mission.
“She’s a wonderful, caring person who always has a smile on her face," said Krueger. "She makes everyone’s worries go away.”

Aspen students visit Haiti to both teach and learn

During the next week, five students from Aspen High School are prepared to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of Haitian children.
The effects of the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti still are being felt as the country slowly recovers. More than 200,000 people were killed in the 7.0 magnitude quake, with 1.5 million people left homeless from the devastation.
The five Aspen students — seniors Ben Belinski, Dominique Wojcik, Jacob Kadota and Allegra Galli, a senior exchange student from Florence, Italy, along with sophomore Tiana Perry — all left Saturday and will return March 1 from Villard, Haiti, where they’ll be doing most of their work.
The students will deliver 150 school books in both English and French for the Villard school. They also plan to build a mini-library at the school to store the books in.
“We’re all super excited to go on this trip,” Ben said. “The goal is to make a difference and an impact in the people’s lives in Haiti, but I also understand it will be difficult at times. This is going to be eye-opening to experience a different culture. I’m hoping to gain some real life experience as well as help the Haitian kids as much as possible.”
The students will participate in conjunction with the Haiti School Project to work with instructors and students in Villard on a variety of educational activities, including student-to-student teaching.
Tim Meyers, a former Carbondale resident who learned about the lack of school buildings for children in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake and wanted to help, founded the Haiti School Project. Meyers now lives in Haiti full time.
A local team of architects and builders flew to Haiti last year as part of the project to help complete the Villard school building.
Also going on the trip will be chaperones Mary Cate Hauenstein, a local counselor who visited Haiti when she was attending high school, and Richard de Campo, a local architect who visited Haiti last year as part of a team that helped build the school building in Villard.
“The brick and mortar part of the school is done,” de Campo said. “The real part of the school is the education. The Haitian students are pretty motivated. The desire is there, they just need some help and direction. It’s going to be a little jarring for our kids to see life in a third-world country, but this trip will likely influence the rest of their lives.”
After de Campo returned from Haiti last year, he spoke with Aspen resident Charla Belinski and the two came up with the idea that would involve some local students to help in Haiti. Charla asked her son, Ben, if he would be interested and Ben was more than enthusiastic. He approached some fellow Aspen High School students and those going on the trip all volunteered to participate.
The trip is backed by Aspen Chapel’s Kids for Kids and Snowmass Chapel’s Teen Action Council. Some of the goals of the program include teaching and learning beyond the classroom experience, understanding a very different socioeconomic environment, developing a sense of service to others and development of leadership and communication skills.
The students have put in countless hours fundraising and preparing activities. Ben said the students have now raised more than $4,000 for the trip through bake sales, fundraising within their church groups and pitching locally for donations.
“So many people have been extremely generous helping us raise money,” he said. “There’s been a lot of local enthusiasm behind the fundraising.”
Besides the books and the library project, the Aspen students have some science projects and geography lessons to share. They also hope to play some music together.
In addition to working at the Villard school, the students will visit the Albert Schweitzer Hospital, located in Deschapelles, a town in the Artibonite Valley of central Haiti. They’ll also spend some time at the Mercy and Sharing Orphanage that was started by Aspen residents Susie and Joe Krabacher.
Galli has traveled with her family, but hasn’t had an opportunity to travel to a country like Haiti by herself. She hopes to keep a journal and take many pictures to share with students in Aspen as well as to share her experiences with her friends in Italy.
“We’re hoping to build a connection with the kids in Haiti,” Galli said. “Hopefully this will be the first of many trips for Aspen kids to help out in Haiti.”
If people want to follow how the trip is progressing, they can visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/aspenforhaiti, where the kids will be posting pictures and comments during the visit.
“I’m hoping this trip can plant the seed for the next generation of student leaders to think in broader cultural terms,” de Campo said. “I’m willing to bet that our students won’t be the same after this trip. It’s going to force them to look at the world in a different way.”

Democratic Party arm criticized in Haiti project for spending on big foreign salaries and Washington office overhead

By George RussellPublished February 24, 2014FoxNews.com
EXCLUSIVE: An arm of the Democratic Party chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, that aims to support democracy in foreign countries, has been sharply criticized by an important donor for spending nearly 40 percent of the budget of a project in disaster-battered Haiti on foreign salaries and Washington office overhead, rather than on the field staff and equipment the project required.
The National Democratic Institute is a non-profit arm of the Democratic Party that maintains more than 60 offices abroad and works in non-partisan fashion, according to its website, “to support democratic elections, political parties, parliaments, civic engagement and women’s political empowerment.”
But at least in Haiti, the institute commonly known as NDI has been the subject of tough criticism from evaluators hired by one of its most respected donors: Norway.
In connection with a program intended to boost civilian influence on the priorities of Haiti’s ramshackle government, the evaluators took a harsh swipe at the salaries handed out to top NDI personnel on the ground in connection with the money spent on NDI personnel and other overhead back at its Washington headquarters, and, most importantly, at what the evaluators declared was “the lack of anything that ordinary Haitians would consider results.”
NDI strongly disputes most of the conclusions of the evaluation study, forbiddingly titled, “Review of Norwegian Support to Strengthening Citizens’ Political Influence in Haiti through the National Democratic Institute,” and currently posted on the ministry’s website.
In all, the report declared, “roughly 4 out of every 10 dollars” in NDI’s $1.6 million budget for its civilian support exercise in Haiti went “to cover the cost of the Washington office and its in-country field director, an expatriate who received salary benefits and allowances (including a “hardship” payment ) more than $256,000.
Another $55,000 went toward salaries of six NDI staffers in Washington, along with nearly $120,000 in overhead costs and an additional amount of nearly $181,600 retained for NDI’s home office that was dubbed “program support.”
In the meantime, as a result of the cash squeeze brought on by high expenses, nearly half of the NDI program’s 13 local field coordinators were fired after half a year, while the remainder had to provide their own computers for work, do work from home, and, when they traveled to the far-flung regions under their supervision, take Haiti’s crude collective taxis or hitch rides on ubiquitous local motorcycles.
Only about one-third f more than $616,000 that went for Washington overhead and the expat director’s salary and benefits would have reversed the cutbacks, the study says.
Norway dropped its financing for NDI’s program shortly after the evaluation report was published in November 2012.
In response to questions from Fox News, Norwegian foreign ministry officials confirmed that “discussions” about NDI’s costs “were held” with the organization, and that “Norway no longer supports NDI’s activities in Haiti,” although it does so elsewhere, notably in Somalia.
In broader terms, the Norwegian evaluation was also a critique of too-optimistic assumptions about what it called “democracy-building goals”—what might be called internationally-funded community organizing-- in dysfunctional states like Haiti.
As the report put it: “Can MFA [Norway’s foreign ministry] feel reasonably assured that the finance of pressure groups and advocacy coalitions within civil society will lead to positive change, to enhanced responsiveness, on the part of the Haitian government ?”
Simply put, no. “The team found no evidence in this field review that the people really expect the government to come through” with goods and services as a result of civilian lobbying, the document stated. “And given the chronic, continuing chaotic state of the government,” it continued, “they are right.”
The essence of program that Norway’s evaluators found wanting had been in existence for more than a decade before Oslo’s checkbook came along, mostly supported by USAID. It consists of a non-partisan network of so-called citizens’ Initiative Committees, or ICs, developed by NDI through field work, and organized in parallel to local and regional government. According to the report, they now cover most of the country.
They are, according to the report, intended to “identify problems of local concern” and to “dialogue with elected officials concerning the resolution of these problems”—which for most of Haiti amounts to a catastrophic lack of infrastructure and basic services, even after billions in humanitarian and development aid poured in after the mammoth 2010 earthquake and ensuing cholera epidemic.
NDI’s role was to organize the ICs and support them through “event financing”—helping to rent meeting spaces, pay for food at encounter sessions with Haitian government officials, and sometimes pay for the transport and housing of people to attend the events.
As the report puts it, “The NDI program focuses on organizing the citizenry for advocacy purposes rather than directly trying to improve government performance.”
The events themselves drew praise from Norway’s evaluators, who say they were “impressed with the excitement and electricity generated” at one such gathering of “individuals who were happy to be interacting in an organized manner, perhaps for the first time in their lives, with government officials.”
But when it came to actual results, the evaluators were decidedly more skeptical. They saw the things that Haitians wanted to organize around as real and desperately needed services --“governmentally funded roads, water systems, electric systems, health centers, schools and the like,” as the document puts it at one point.
Instead, the reviewers noted that NDI’s own proposed benchmarks for evaluation included enlargement of the IC network, the establishment of “civic advocacy coalitions, “and the implementation of “visible advocacy campaigns,” i.e. dialogue meetings.
The problem is, the evaluators noted, that in NDI’s concept, “program activities are being defined as the program results.” By analogy, they argued, “NDI’s use of the term would define the ‘results’ of a vaccination campaign in terms of the quantity of vaccine distributed, rather than its impact on health outcomes. This terminological maneuver in effect frees program managers from the task of proving any impact of the delivered activities.”
Bottom line: “The concept of results in the NDI proposal is at odds with the common sense definition that ordinary Haitians (and probably most humans) have.”
In fairness, the evaluation report also underlines that the “absence of bona-fide results has more to do with the intractable nature of the Haitian State.”
The “intractable” problem is that no matter how much citizens lobby, in the reviewers’ opinion the Haitian state knows how to extract money and resources from its citizens and others, but has virtually no history at all of delivering services. “It has all the proper ministries in place, but they are like Hollywood sets in terms of what goes on inside them.”
But that only makes the issue of mobilizing civil encounter groups worse, and the issue of using those lobbying efforts as a benchmark of success, even worse.
As the report puts it, “If a lobbying group in Tampa, Florida, or in Berget in western Norway had failed to elicit a dollar or a kroner from the local government during 12 years of efforts, the undertaking would be declared a failure. Why should it be considered a success in Haiti?”
For its part, when queried by Fox News, NDI took issue with virtually every skeptical aspect of the evaluation report.
Among other things, a DNI spokesperson told Fox News, the Institute’s “overhead costs were approved at the onset of each program,” and noted that the report itself said NDI costs in Haiti were “not unusual in the context of U.S. NGOs and U.S. federal contracts, grants and cooperative agreements.”
So the report indeed says. But the investigation was carried out on behalf of Norway, not the U.S., and the report also notes that the overheads were “far above” Norway’s own 8 percent guideline for “office support. ”
And even though NDI’s cost structure may have paralleled the U.S. government’s, it was divided up in a different manner, as the report also notes: rather than consolidate its support figures up front, NDI buried the explanation for more than 14 percent of the overhead figure on the second-last page of a 14-page memo accompanying its budget.
Concerning the evaluation report’s conclusions about NDI’s lack of concrete results, the spokesperson declared that “NDI holds a fundamentally different development philosophy from that of the evaluator.”
She further claimed that the report itself declared that NDI “has admirably and effectively” fulfilled the requirements of the agreement and “strongly recommends” that Norway continue in partnership with NDI.
In fact, the report says something similar --but different.
It concludes that “NDI has effectively fulfilled its part of the agreement at least in terms of activities if not of results. We recommend that MFA [Norway’s foreign affairs ministry] and NDI deal with the conceptual, budgetary and managerial issues raised in the report and continue in partnership.”
Evidently, that did not happen.