jeudi 18 février 2016

Cape Ann Forum speaker to assess aid to Haiti

Posted Feb. 17, 2016 at 8:55 PM
Essex philanthropist and human rights activist Karen Ansara will share her experiences, both good and bad, with relief and development in Haiti since a devastating earthquake hit the island nation six years ago at the first Cape Ann Forum of 2016 on Sunday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. at Gloucester City Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

The January 2010 earthquake wreaked havoc across the country, the Caribbean’s poorest, and left 220,000 dead, 300,000 injured, and two million homeless. Schools and hospitals were destroyed, the main air and sea ports were badly damaged, and debris blocked access to the worst hit areas.

The human needs and challenges were enormous. Donations poured in along with thousands of volunteers in a chaotic and often disorganized relief effort. Many lives were saved, but money was wasted and opportunities were missed. Six years later, much remains to be done.

Karen Keating Ansara, who with her husband Jim Ansara launched a Haiti Fund within hours of the disaster and remained engaged throughout the years since then, now asks what lessons can would-be donors and volunteers take from Haiti and apply to other disasters when they happen.

She boils her takeaways down to three:
• Focus on partners, not plans.
• Focus on empowerment, not impact.
• And focus on depth, not breadth.

“I care far less about measurable impact and much more about signs of empowerment,” says Ansara. “Have our grants helped Haitians find their own voices? Have we enabled and ennobled grassroots leaders to articulate their own visions and celebrate their own collective assets? Have we held these leaders and their organizations to the highest standards of ethics, professionalism, and practice—and given them the tools, training and trust needed to achieve their greatest aspirations for themselves and their communities?”

“I have learned to peel off the layers of the onion in a local context instead of trying to go quickly to scale—because poverty is undeniably multi-layered,” she adds. “It’s not just about lack of income, lack of infrastructure, lack of education, lack of health care, or lack of any particular resource.
“Poverty may also be perpetuated by entrenched social norms, by structural and internalized oppression, by lack of a political voice or right to hold one’s government accountable.
 I have seen that all of these layers must be addressed for an individual or a community to move forward.”
In 2008, Ansara co-founded New England International Donors, a network of 115 donors, grantmakers, social investors, and advisors affiliated with the Boston Foundation, to promote more innovative and effective global philanthropy. She and her husband Jim cofounded the Haiti Fund at the Boston Foundation in 2010, a five-year project to make grants in Haiti and in Boston’s Haitian community, and support anti-poverty efforts in Nepal, another impoverished country recovering from a powerful earthquake.

She is an advisor to the emerging Haiti Development Institute and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and a member of the board of MCE Social Capital in California, the Leadership Council of Oxfam America, the Steering Committee of the Opportunity Collaboration, and the board of Wheelock College in Boston. She recently served on the boards of Partners in Health, Essex County Community Foundation, and Harborlight Community Partners, an affordable housing organization. Ansara holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Wellesley College, a master’s in Divinity from Andover Newton Theological School, and an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters from Salem State University.

Future Cape Ann Forums will feature Boston-based author and policy analyst Steven Walt on Sunday, April 3, on whether the United States should or can manage the Middle East, with journalist and commentator Christopher Lydon acting as a respondent; and West Point grad and career-officer-turned-security-analyst Andrew Bacevich on Sunday, May 15 on the challenges, opportunities and limits the U.S. faces on the global stage in the years ahead.

All events are at Gloucester City Hall. For more information, visit www.capeannforum.org.

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