Organization: Haiti Communitere
Dates: 26-Jun-13 - 17-Aug-13
In Alexander's own words
How I contributed: Haiti Communitere is a unique organization, in that their mission is to help facilitate the projects of other nonprofits. The Ubuntu Blox Project was facilitated by Haiti Communitere, allowing them to fulfill their mission. Working with the Ubuntu Blox project, I was able to increase the efficiency of block production through various improvements, such as optimizing the factory layout, and creating a reliable system of styrofoam collection. Additionally, creating the need for three new jobs helps further the project goal of employing local workers in the Ubuntu factory. A final goal of both Haiti Communitere and the Ubuntu Blox Project is to take an issue in Haiti, and use it create a Haitian supported solution. By being involved with this project, I was able to help turn styrofoam waste into a building material used for infrastructure in Haiti.
What I felt most challenged by: The most challenging part of this project was trying to integrate myself with an already running project. Once I arrived in Haiti, I was the only one working on the Ubuntu project, meaning I had to find my way and determine the steps necessary to get the program where the directors (based in Canada) wanted the project to go. I quickly realized the limitations of running such a dynamic project remotely, as the directors were trying to do. Contact with the directors was difficult due to differences in schedules and unreliable internet in Haiti. / Another challenge was working in a country with a more relaxed workday structure. Adjusting to the different pace of life, and how flexible meeting times were was initially challenging.
What I enjoyed most: I enjoyed the degree of freedom this project afforded me. Since I was the primary one in charge of the project on location, I was able to do what I thought was best with the project. Initially a challenge, this proved to be one of the more exciting aspects of the entire experience. I was left most often to make executive decisions about the budget by myself, which proved to be rewarding later on when I understood the project more in-depth. / Additionally, being in such an exciting place as Haiti was enjoyable. Although many precautions need to be taken for safety, Haiti is an unusual environment to work in and has an element of adventure that is difficult to find elsewhere.
Would I recommend this experience: I would recommend this experience to students who like the independence this project forces upon them. Haiti is a notoriously difficult place to get initiatives to work as intended, and this should be known when committing. At times, there will be difficulties but this can be one of the advantages of working here as well. Haiti is an excellent place to learn. With its proximity to the US and the 2010 earthquake, there are numerous organizations and projects happening with varying degrees of success. Being able to observe firsthand why some initiatives work and some fail is invaluable experience and has taught me significantly about development.