Mobilizing internal resources in respond to COVID-19 by Dr. Jean-Yves Plaisir

Mobilizing internal resources in respond to COVID-19 by Dr. Jean-Yves Plaisir

SPECIAL TO H-O―Since its founding in the State of New Jersey in 2017, Haitian Leadership Forum (HLF) has focused energy on reinforcing existing capacity to respond to perennial challenges and quality of life issues that have become more acute in Haitian communities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. From time to time, organizations like ours must pause and ask ‘Who?’ before ‘What?’ in response to the sizable challenges facing our communities both in the Diaspora and in Haiti. In our case, we did an assessment of our internal resources and adjusted our mission to launch a public awareness campaign about the pandemic, encourage entrepreneurship in Haitian diasporic communities, and even consider taking calculated risks in future engagements in Haiti. Therefore, we have deployed both operational and programmatic leadership to harness resources with some Haitian organizations and government institutions on various fronts as a key strategy for responding to major challenges during and after the coronavirus pandemic.

At the end of March 2020, when government officials in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut made it clear that frontline workers were facing a dire shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), we observed that there was an urgent need for washable and reusable facemasks in communities predominantly populated by people of Haitian origin. Subsequently, we raised a substantial amount of money to order those types of masks, which we distributed free of charge in Spring Valley (NY) as part of our initiative to educate and stand in solidarity with that community during this unprecedented health crisis. Our members and affiliates contributed generously to our efforts to deliver 500 masks in Rockland County with message cards containing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC0 for protection against the spread of COVID-19. Through this initiative, HLF created synergy with Vision International for NEEDED Children (VINC) and the Spring Valley Mayor’s Office, and delivered facemasks to taxicab drivers, the elderly, and other at-risk individuals in Rockland County. We are poised to replicate the same gesture of solidarity within Haitian communities in Brooklyn (NY) and some townships in New Jersey beginning this month of August.

In June, HLF and Haiti Première Classe (HPC) started a series of conferences on entrepreneurialism whereby we’ve invited prominent Haitian economists, such as Dr. Ludovic Comeau, Associate Professor of Economics at DePaul University, and Dr. Fritz Jean, former Governor of Haiti’s Central Bank, to share knowledge and leadership experiences in helping our diverse audiences to understand the economic impact of COVID-19, while urging us to create transnational networks among Haitians in the Diaspora and those in Haiti, to develop joint economic ventures during and after the pandemic. For example, in his talk on June 20, Professor Comeau stressed the need for Haitians to make a generational leap to alter economic precarity in Haiti— because we missed both the Industrial Revolution and the Digital Revolution. In the same vein, Dr. Fritz Jean, during his lecture on July 18, summoned Haitians to make a qualitative leap in our efforts to develop human resources and combat gender-based violence in Haiti. Both economists also concurred that the Haitian Diaspora is the single most important lobby for influencing foreign policies and economic investments in Haiti. Understanding that lack of security poses a major threat to economic investments in Haiti; we have invited Colonel Himmler Rébu, formerly Haiti’s Secretary of State for Public Security, to share fresh perspectives with us on this matter in our next Zoom conference on August 15, about two weeks from now.

Moving forward, HLF will continue to foster collaboration with government, private, and public sectors to materialize, unify and synchronize efforts with Haitian organizations and people of Haitian ancestry towards improving quality of life and enhancing opportunities for Haitian children, youth and adults, leading to healthy and productive lives with respect and dignity wherever they find themselves in the world. Our vision is to create an international network of reliable partners and form trusted alliances with national and international governments, including private foundations, corporations, and local businesses and municipalities to foster economic, social and cultural conditions that will allow Haitians to take their destiny into their own hands and thrive.

To bring local and global individuals and organizations together, we rely heavily on the audacious commitment of Haitian men and women to focus on measurable outcomes in the work that we do within our local communities. As we face new challenges, we understand the necessity to mobilize our internal resources in new ways to achieve visible, life-changing work within Haitian communities. This objective is achievable, if we reinforce institutional capacities and build structural capabilities to find permanent solutions to some of the challenges facing Haitian communities in the Diaspora as well as in Haiti.

In this moment of unprecedented challenges, Haitian Leadership Forum calls on all Haitian organizations in the Diaspora to leverage all of our assets, mobilize multi-disciplinary teams, and look internally to fully utilize every resource that we have, As well as scientific, technical, political, social, economic, cultural and spiritual as a way to address the multifaceted aspects (i.e., health, social, economic, political) of this global crisis. We, therefore, call for a paradigm shift among Haitian organizations, in Haiti and in the Diaspora to develop timely strategies in response to the current situation while also focusing energy and resources on finding permanent solutions to the systemic problems affecting the lives of children, young people, women, and men of Haitian ancestry. Dr. J-YP, 29 July 2020

cet article est publié par l’hebdomadaire Haïti-Observateur, édition du 29 juillet 2020, VOL. L, No.29 – New York, et se trouve en P. 4 à :