Who are we & what we do.
For the past 10 years, Roots has been working on La Gonave, Haiti’s largest island. La Gonave is home to approximately 120,000 people who are largely under or unemployed. Many of the island’s residents live in extreme poverty with limited access to basic services, such as clean water and healthcare. The needs and interests of local communities rarely get political traction, and the local private sector is weak due to the island’s remote location, lack of basic infrastructure and economic opportunities.
Roots works in one of La Gonave’s eleven municipalities. We have been helping the people of Gran Sous successfully form and strengthen a community-based organization (“CBO”) that represents the local population, and has the capacity to manage and protect the population’s interests. We focus on strengthening the CBO’s organizational capacity over building infrastructure, so the CBO is actually able to manage and maintain its local resources, including infrastructure. Roots also supports the CBO in setting its priorities and development goals as well as managing and maintaining its efforts.
On the field, Roots provides the services of professional facilitators that deliver capacity-building workshops and trainings particularly catered to the CBO’s structural and operational needs. Roots also raises funds to finance initiatives aimed at furthering the capacity-building process, and facilitates connections between the CBO and other potential partners (e.g., In 2015, Roots helped the CBO partner with Acccess Haiti, an internet provider, to install an antenna in Gran Sous and provide free internet access to the community center built and managed by the CBO. Also, members of the community now have access to Internet at a monthly fee).
Our plan is to continue strengthening the CBO’s local capacity so it can more effectively improve the quality of life of the community it serves. Additionally, we plan to expand Roots’ work to the other municipalities of La Gonave. By scaling up Roots’ impact, we will help empower a larger population to take charge of its own development. We will also provide the international development world a sizeable example of a development approach that is truly sustainable.
Roots’ capacity-building approach revolves around two main components First, we provide the CBO with the tools to understand and maintain the characteristics that make-up an effective CBO. Core skills built under this component include:
- workshops on the principles of community-driven development
- workshops on leadership
- workshops on diversity
- workshops on democratic principles
- workshops on conflict management and resolution
- workshops on effective meeting administration
Second, we help the CBOs build the skills needed to effectively plan, manage and execute community projects. Activities carried-out under this component include:
- workshops on project management skills
- workshops on soliciting and building partnerships
- workshops on strategic planning
- workshops on small business/entrepreneurship
- workshops on business administration
- workshops on computer skills
By means of the capacity-building workshops and other support we provide, the community in Gran Sous built and now benefits from new and better social and economic infrastructure, including three municipal water purification systems, a non-perishable goods communal business, a solar powered community center, as well as 19 houses built for local families most affected by a series of hurricanes in 2008 and an earthquake in 2010.
Roots’ approach empowers local leadership and promotes local ownership. In May 2016, the CBO partnered with The Parsons School of Design to install solar street lamps in key areas around the community. The CBO held multiple community meetings during the planning phase of the project. During these meetings, the community asked questions, voted on the locations where the lamps would be placed, decided who would contribute to the local resources needed to install the lamps. The morning of the installation, residents were digging holes and mixing concrete since 5 a.m. By noon, all five solar street lamps were up and functioning.
The empowerment and ownership resulting from a CBO’s ability to cater to its community’s needs, combined with our emphasis on democratic processes and inclusive leadership, results in the sustainability of our approach.
In the past decade, Roots has seen (watched) the Gran Sous community grow more united and create an atmosphere of collaboration where homegrown solutions are prioritized and local resources are valued. Such an environment is prone to produce local entrepreneurs and leaders who will work to promote the population’s interests. The community now has access to more basic infrastructure, and is better able to manage and maintain it. Moreover, with the help of a skilled CBO, the population will continue reaping the benefits of holistic improvements in its community.
La Gonave’s population is larger than that of 57% of the Caribbean islands (including St. Kitts & Nevis, Aruba, and Granada). Expanding Root’s work to the entirety of the island would allow us to increase our impact to benefit a larger population in independently breaking away from the cycle of poverty by means of a sustainable approach.