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Jacksonville Helping Haitians Four Years After Devastating Earthquake


Zanmi Fonkoze Jacksonville and Riverside Presbyterian Church will host an open meeting Saturday, Oct. 26 to discuss the progress that has been made four years after a devastating earthquake rocked Haiti.

The island nation is still struggling amid humanitarian relief efforts, and Jacksonville has become a hub of activism to raise awareness and provide destitute Haitians with an opportunites.

The meeting will feature two experts from Fonkoze; Laurence Camille, Director of Education, and Gauthier Dieudonné, Director of Fonkoze's Chemen Lavi Miyò ("Road to a Better Life") program.

"This is a program designed for people deprived of basic needs, like clothing, shelter and food," said Dieudonné.

Fonkoze is Haiti's largest microfinancing institution that works to pull citizens out of extreme poverty. The institution is 20-year-old and employs more than 800 Haitians.

It was the only financial institution able to stay open after the catastrophic 2010 earthquake, providing financial and developmental services to the country.

"Its help is not only with poverty alleviation," said Leigh Carter, executive director of Fonkoze. "But it's employing a lot of women in Haiti."

Although the 18 month program is designed to help everyone, Jacksonville attorney Michael Fisher said Fonkoze's focus is on women.

"It's important to empower women," Fisher said. "That will help the whole family."

Fisher said women are the staple of Haiti, as well as many other third-world countries. He said this is because their main concerns are the well-being of their children; and if the mothers aren't healthy, they can't be productive.

Fonkoze provides financial services for women, as well as offering developmental services, like adult literacy, health education and healthcare access.

"You can't hand a woman a loan and walk away," Carter said. "You have to give her all the things she needs to be successful as an entrepreneur."

All are encouraged to participate. Fisher said it's important to get involved in such a successful effort.

"You can see quite a difference in before and after," said Fisher. "I've been there, and I've seen it."

Learn more about the event and relief efforts at Fonkoze or the Riverside Presbyterian Church