Haiti Now: Changing Communities Through Donated Time and Kindness

Oct 23, 2019 9:20 AM ET

This Pro Bono Week, Taproot Foundation is spotlighting nonprofits, business professionals, and companies who are playing key roles in bringing the impact of pro bono to life in communities around the globe.

Haiti Now is using the power of education to end child servitude in Haiti, and they’re doing so with the support of skilled volunteers thousands of miles away. Founded in 2010 by Alex Lizzappi in the wake of the devastating Haitian earthquake, they started out small. Haiti Now set up their first Book Bank to distribute textbooks to hundreds of children by working with a local school in Port au Prince. Fast forward 9 years, and Haiti Now is gearing up to launch “The Residential School,” their holistic solution to ending child exploitation that includes free healthcare, safe housing, accelerated educational curriculum, and an entrepreneurial incubator. And yet, despite Haiti Now’s huge impact on the island nation, they remain entirely volunteer run, making use of pro bono support to fuel their critical work and expand capacity.

Ending the cycle of poverty

Currently across Haiti there are approximately 250,000 children who, faced with extreme poverty, have turned to domestic servitude for survival. Known as the Restavek, these children are subject to social isolation, high rates of abuse, a lack of pay, and are cut off from receiving an education. Haiti Now’s solution: break this cycle of poverty by empowering girls.

In order to drive their critical education, public health, and safety initiatives on behalf of Restavek children, Haiti Now’s founder, Alex, has had to get creative when it comes to using volunteer resources. To date, they have teamed up with Taproot volunteers for over 60 pro bono projects— totaling in-kind support nearing $1,000,000 in value. These projects have spanned HR, financial planning, website design, SEO, accounting, project management, copywriting, evaluation, and more—all managed by Alex himself or other skilled volunteers. In fact, because of the steady stream of pro bono support, Alex reports that Haiti Now has “shaped the way we work around the types of volunteers we can recruit from Taproot.”

Investing in impact measurement

One massive endeavor they took on purely through pro bono support was building a school management mobile app. Faced with limited electricity and very low digital literacy, Haiti Now needed a simple and efficient way for teachers and on-the-ground volunteers to track data and analyze results from their programming. Alex knew that as his organization looked to evolve and tell the story of their work in the coming years, “standardized data gathering, like attendance and GPA information, through a smartphone was critical to the program and its expanding focuses so we always had an understanding of the resources we needed to deploy.”

Over the course of a year they partnered up with a team of Taproot volunteers—Salesforce administrators, mobile app developers, UX experts, and project managers—each tackling discreet aspects of what Alex referred to as “the most important pro bono project we’ve taken on in terms of the value to our students.” Once the app was ready to roll, Haiti Now then sourced pro bono support to help them get all program participants on board. They tapped into the talents of volunteers skilled in copywriting to create easy-to-use manuals for teachers and expert videographers to create easily digestible videos that walked through app processes.

An organization powered by donated kindness

Haiti Now has truly become an organization powered by pro bono. Their community of skilled volunteers has played a key role in their sustainability plan as they launch bold new programs geared towards bringing a swift end to child servitude. And they don’t take for granted the volunteers that have expanded the organization’s ability to transform the lives of these girls. “The idea of running an organization that is able to produce so much good thanks to donated kindness and time is a phenomenal thing.” In fact, Alex shares that it is in part because of his experience working with Taproot skilled volunteers that “it’s confirmed that Haiti Now’s mission and work is validated, is supported, and has a chance to be successful and continue serving Haitian children for years to come.”

Join Haiti Now as a member of Taproot’s “community of kindness” during Pro Bono Week.
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