Miami Book Fair is fortunate to have an expansive family of donors and supporters. Thirty-five years of world-class literary events and impactful community programs, three-and-a-half decades of building community, one reader at a time, would not be possible if not for the generous support of our supporters and community partners.
One such partner, the Ayiti Community Trust, has been central to the success of ReadCaribbean, our programming series featuring extensive Caribbean-specific events, including readings and panel discussions, storytelling for children, music and more, plus publishers at the annual Street Fair; as well as the Little Haiti Book Festival, which features two days of vibrant cultural exposure to writers, booksellers, performers, and more, is part of Miami Book Fair’s ReadCaribbean programming.
Read the interview below to read more about the incredible work they’re doing.
How did the Ayiti Community Trust come to be? What was the motivation?
Determined to move Haiti from aid to thoughtful and sustainable redevelopment, a group of Haitians in Haiti and in the diaspora, with some friends of Haiti, came together to establish the Ayiti Community Trust (ACT). ACT is registered in Haiti and in the US and has assembled a robust governance board. ACT was successfully launched in Haiti with attendance from the President’s cabinet, Minister of Urban planning, Minister of Environment, and Minister of Tourism. The U.S. Embassy hosted the board of trustees for a briefing at the Embassy with their key executive leaders and organized a breakfast with other international donors in the country to brief them about ACT. The organization has identified three focus/investment areas, Environment, Civic Education and Entrepreneurship. This has motivated strategic outreach to key organizations such as USAID, PADF, D’lo D’Haiti, ProDev, and Caseli, Hope for Haiti, etc. requesting potential partnership with ACT around our grant making initiatives. A website highlighting the work of the organization is available as well as active Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. The organization has been recognized by several articles in the Miami Herald, the Nouvelliste, Challenges, and Chokarella, highlighting its impact to date and its vision for a new philanthropic model in Haiti.
- The Problem:
- Aid to Haiti mainly comes in the form of disaster relief. It is often short-lived and acts as a Band-Aid.
- Sustainable, lasting impact is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve solely through donations.
- Non-disaster aid to Haiti is typically driven by foreign donors who, despite good intentions, do not have an incentive for long-term commitment nor the patience to weather the challenges that arise.
- Well known nonprofits raise funds for Haiti, however it is often the case that a small percent of what is raised actually reaches Haiti or, if it does, it ends up in the wrong hands. This has led to “donor fatigue ”and distrust.
- Charities are often emotionally driven and address the symptoms but not the root causes. While basic needs like food, water, clothing and health care are necessary, just handing them out can create unintended consequences as opposed to sustained well being
- Haiti remains the poorest country in the Americas and one of the poorest in the world. This kind of aid will not change this status.
- The Solution:
“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
AYITY COMMUNITY TRUST (ACT) is part of the solution because it is an endowed fund that:
- Is created by a group of Haitians and friends of Haiti and is positioned for the long term to address root causes.
- Builds on Haiti’s assets while applying resources to local people identifying local needs.
- Commits to transparency, and accountability in its grant making to high-impact, sustainable work led by Haitians.
- Makes strategic grants within the three pillars of Environment, Civic Education and Entrepreneurship with the same rigor as if they were investments.
- Who is ACT?
- An endowment for Haiti created by Haitians that empowers Haitian nonprofits working locally.
- ACT focuses on building important relationships to the Haitian philanthropic and business community in Haiti and in the Diaspora.
- A large portion of the Board of Directors are born in Haiti or of Haitian descent.
- The board is comprised of Haitians (16) and committed friends of Haiti (7).
- Sectors represented on the board:
- Community Development
- Staff: ACT’s founding CEO, Pierre Imbert, is a native son of Haiti and a highly-respected member of the Haitian diaspora who has served in numerous leadership roles in nonprofits and state government. Prior to founding ACT, Pierre served as the Commissioner of Refugee & Immigrant Affairs for the State of Massachusetts, Deputy Director of Social Services for the State of California, and most recently, as Senior Advisor for Haiti in the Barr Foundation’s Global program.
- By virtue of our leadership, representation, and expertise, we are better positioned than other global organizations to understand the complex social and economic construct of Haiti and to work with Haitian nonprofits.
- Why Now?
- Haiti is stuck in the recovery mode from the catastrophic 2010 earthquake and subsequent cholera epidemic and hurricanes.
- The humanitarian aid organizations have mostly left the country leaving a void and inadequate support for local NGOs.
- It is not too late to protect the best of prior investments and local organizations that were started when aid money was available.
- It is time to strengthen local efforts that are proactive and forward looking (building for the future) vs. reactionary (i.e. disaster relief).
- Example: projects that provide access to capital, skill building for trades and small businesses
The Ayiti Community Trust is a 501(c)3 grant-making foundation registered in Haiti and the US that leverages community investments and philanthropy to contribute to sustainably improve the quality of lives of Haitians in Haiti.
- Through grant making, Ayiti Community Trust supports high impact community-based organizations that focus on improving environmental conditions of the country.
- Ayiti Community Trust promotes innovative initiatives that enable Haitians to empower themselves and engage in the rebuilding of their communities through Civic Education.
- Ayiti Community Trust supports entrepreneurship activities that create livelihood opportunities in a sustainable manner.
What are some things about the Ayiti Community Trust that touch, move, and inspire you? What compels you to do this important work?
How is ACT Different?
- It is building a legacy for generations to come.
- ACT is setup as an endowment fund. This means that donations to the fund are structured such that the amount donated remains intact, while investment income from that donation is available for sustainable projects through rigorous grant making. The result is that an initial donation to ACT has an impact over a longer period of time than a traditional charitable gift.
- It is quite difficult for donors to conduct due diligence on individual nonprofits and their impacts. ACT serves this function.
What is the Fundraising Goal?
- To raise at least $20 million for the endowment in the next 3 years
- Fundraising will be ongoing because the bigger the endowment, the more annual grant making is possible.
The Ayiti Community Trust supports numerous projects and programs that demonstrate meaningful and measurable impact with a Haitian-driven focus. Can you tell us a bit more about why you decided to collaborate with the Miami Book Fair and support this year’s Little Haiti Book Festival? In other words, why might such a collaboration be important for Haiti and the Haitian diaspora today?
- The opportunity to celebrate Haitian culture through its rich literary contributions.
- ACT is built on an asset framing, highlighting the positive aspects of Haiti and its people while acknowledging the challenges, the Little Haiti Book Festival is an example of such vision. It highlights the significant contributions of Haitians through art, music, and literature.
- Participate in the celebration of Haitian culture.
- Promote Haitian cultures throughout the larger community of South Florida.
- Celebrate Haitian born authors such as Edwidge Dandicat and promoting the work of innovative and next generation authors from Haiti, Canada and Miami.
- Increasing the visibility of the focus of Ayiti Community Trust among the larger Haitian community for the purpose of Friendsraising and fundraising.