ELMA commits to rebuilding post-earthquake Haiti by supporting St. Damien Pediatric Hospital

ELMA commits to rebuilding post-earthquake Haiti by supporting St. Damien Pediatric Hospital

August 2, 2014  |  By Tressa Johnson, Director, Education, The ELMA Philanthropies

We frequently hear that people are discouraged from supporting programs and organizations in post-Earthquake Haiti because of a lack of transparency and a strong impression that money has been wasted and recovery stalled. Yet St. Damien Pediatric Hospital, an institution managed by Haitians and providing high-quality life-saving services to Port-au-Prince’s vulnerable children, struggles to raise enough funding to run at capacity every year. This year, they’ve been forced to turn children away and to lay off staff. One of the ways that ELMA continues to support St. Damien is through sponsoring a matching facility whereby the ELMA Relief Foundation will match all donations up to $500,000 received by December 31, 2014.  As of January 1, 2014, St. Damien had raised $336,000 of the targeted $500,000 and thus still needs to raise $164,000 to complete the matching challenge. To make a U.S. tax-deductible donation now or to find out more information, click here.  

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ELMA’s Approach to Relief and Recovery

Lives can change in an instant. Or they can change slowly, painfully, as the rains fall. For families with minimal savings and no safety net, all it takes is one unexpected shock to destroy the precarious daily balance. And while a single family knows how to survive, when that shock affects an entire community or region, ‘normal’ coping systems are shattered. Families may lose their homes and assets, adults their livelihoods and children their access to health care and education.

Like many private funders, The ELMA Relief Foundation shares the broad goal of contributing to humanitarian responses to disasters globally. As these shocks have become more frequent and more destructive, we have developed ever more tactical strategies to leverage our expertise and relationships in responding. Our current relief investment framework focuses on the three stages of disaster: risk reduction, immediate response and the launching of recovery activities. Our framework is further shaped by a strong focus on Africa, on children and on predictable events, such as seasonal floods, cyclical droughts and the presence of high risk factors for disease outbreaks.

We are also concerned about large-scale disasters that threaten to overwhelm the global humanitarian infrastructure. In those cases, we monitor the situation as international attention and funding peak, and then assess whether it makes sense for a private funder to engage, based on the gap between the needs and the response. For example, we continue to be engaged in Haiti, four years after the earthquake and subsequent cholera outbreak, focusing on the rebuilding of communities in the context of reduced aid and waning international attention.

ELMA’s Commitment to Haiti

Our response in Haiti has in many ways become a model for the rest of the Relief portfolio. In the months following the earthquake, it became painfully obvious that Haitian institutions and communities were largely excluded from both decision-making and funding. Given our belief that international institutions and donor governments bear the responsibility for working with the Haitian government at the systemic level, we felt that the most appropriate role for a private funder such as ELMA was to direct resources to the under-nourished grassroots organizations directly serving children’s needs.

Due to this commitment, as we approach the 4th anniversary of the earthquake, The ELMA Relief Foundation continues to support St. Damien Pediatric Hospital. The hospital has been providing life-saving, tertiary-level care and treatment for children and women (including services not available elsewhere in the country) since 1996. The only dedicated pediatric facility still standing after the earthquake, they immediately began expanding to meet new needs, and now serve 90,000 patients per year. A new maternity and neonatal ward was completed in 2012 to address the limited availability of these critical services. Hospital leadership made this commitment during a time when gender-based violence and pregnancy rates were skyrocketing in the informal settlements. They made this commitment without knowing where the resources would come from because they recognized a responsibility to the children on whom Haiti’s future rests.

St. Damien contributes more to the community than high quality medical services. This well-managed, clean, quiet, bright institution provides free service to those who cannot afford to pay (95% of its clients). It is also a source of employment for 400 Haitians, all of whom are invested in the long-term welfare of their own communities. In a country over-run with large-scale programs run by international NGOs, this facility is entirely managed and run by Haitians. The staff ensures that every single patient and her family are treated with dignity and respect.  For patients used to harsher realties, such basic respect can be just as rare as access to quality health care. St. Damien is a bright and inspirational part of Haiti’s journey to recovery that will continue to serve vulnerable children for decades to come and we invite you to join us in supporting them.