Diaspora groups launch national listening tour in Boston

On July 14, a group of leaders from the Haitian diaspora launched a national listening tour in Boston. The Haitian Fund for Innovation and Reconstruction (HFIR) based in New York, Konbit for Haiti out of Florida, the Lambi Fund from Haiti, and Oxfam America headquartered in Boston with offices in DC - collaborated with the Boston Haitian Reporter – to convene a working meeting. The goal was to hear the diaspora perspective on issues that can be addressed through coordinated

Participants engage in brainstorm about advocacy priorities on July 14.Participants engage in brainstorm about advocacy priorities on July 14.

About 25 local community leaders, entrepreneurs,human rights advocates and young professionals gathered to discuss priorities in setting an advocacy agenda. The group eagerly provided their input on the major sectors that need to be bolstered and prioritized, from education and governance to the justice system and infrastructure.

Shortly after the January 2010 earthquake, many in the diaspora mobilized money, supplies, and their networks
into action. The diaspora—which has long served as a major economic driver for the island, sending about $1 billion a year back home – responded swiftly to humanitarian needs.

Over a year and half later, the flow of international aid for reconstruction has been a slow, flawed process. A number
of organizations, developed post-quake, have begun advocate for better US policy towards Haiti. However, relatively
few of these efforts are led by the diaspora.

In March 2010, more than 400 members of the diaspora responded to the Organization of American States’ (OAS) call for a meeting at their Headquarters in Washington DC. In the run-up to the international donor’s conference at United Nations (UN), the goal of this three-day event was to develop a coordinated strategy that addressed key issues in the recovery,
reconstruction and development efforts in Haiti.

The diaspora has since held a number of gatherings, dialogues and forums of Haiti’s recovery and construction. “This meeting is in the context of a series of other meetings that have taken place,” said Johnny Celestin, founder and director of HFIR. “This listening tour will [allow us] to… activate the powerful voice of Haitian-Americans.”

Sophia Lafontant, lead organizer of Oxfam added this advocacy should be targeted to the US government, because many in the diaspora are US citizens.Over the next few months, the tour will visit Miami and New York – the two cities
with the largest population of Haitians in the US.

The group plans to follow up with participants from these sessions to provide advocacy trainings and eventually craft a policy agenda for Haitians living abroad.