Thursday, December 01, 2005

THE LAMBI FUND OF HAITI: Well Organized, Well Managed

Well Folks, it looks like I have done it again. I have bitten off a bigger project than I can chew. I'm not talking about food, I talking about an organization that has so much going on, I can't possibly talk about it in this brief Article.

The organization is The Lambi Fund of Haiti; a 501(c)(3), tax exempt not for profit organization that has a bifurcated management structure situated in the U.S. and in Haiti.

The Lambi Fund's mission is "to assist the popular, democratic movement in Haiti. Its goal is to help strengthen civil society as a necessary foundation of democracy and development. The fund channels financial and other resources to community-based organizations that promote the social and economic empowerment of the Haitian people."

Its principles require it to use non-violent, non-partisan, community-based efforts to promote the advancement of women, using education and training for empowerment, and promoting the overall democratic movement.

The organization says that it is made up of "a diverse group of individuals from many walks of life who work together toward economic justice, democracy and alternative sustainable development in Haiti."

The Lambi Fund of Haiti was founded in 1994 by a combination of Haitians, Haitian-Americans, and North Americans. The name of the organization was chosen from the Haitian Creole word for conch shell (pronounced lahm-bee). The conch shell, blown as a horn, has played a vital role in community organizing throughout Haiti's history. (It brings to my mind the use of the image of the "Ram's Horn" as the name of an anti-slavery newspaper in the mid-1800s in the United States. - But I digress.)

The Lambi Fund's web site states that during the slave rebellion against the French colonialists in 1791, the lambi's call alerted the slaves to impending danger and the need to assemble. And they state that even today, the sound of the shell is used to alert villagers that are some distance away that a community meeting is about to commence.

The symbol of the lambi was chosen to represent the Haitian people's hope, strength, resistance, and struggle for self-determination.

Currently, The Lambi Fund is supporting 24 projects in Haiti. These projects in included in the broader areas of:

- Sustainable Development
- Community Micro-credit
- Environment
- Organizational and Leadership Training
- Grassroots Democracy

Now, obviously I am not going to discuss all twenty-four of these projects, so I will just give an overview of each of the program areas.

In the area of Sustainable Development Lambi focuses on sustainable agricultural projects that provide ox plows and grain mills to help increase food security and income for peasant families. Many of the sustainable development projects are focused to benefit women, who bear the greater portion of the burden in the agricultural economy.

The Community Micro-credit programs help members of community organizations come together and form micro-enterprise funds as a means of providing each other with capital to initiate self-sustaining community projects.

Regarding the Environment Lambi Fund projects help to create community cisterns and irrigation systems help so as to provide secure, safe and efficient water supplies. Additionally reforestation projects curb the rapid rate of deforestation in various communities. (I wonder if they have examined M.I.T.'s D-Lab 's project that turns Hatian sugarcane into charcoal , thereby slowing the rate of deforestation.)

The Lambi Fund also provides organizational and leadership development training programs for peasant organizations and women's associations in order to help foster a civil society.

And also to foster civil society, The Lambi Fund integrates the opportunity to reinforce indigenous democratic practices into all of its projects. "The Lambi Fund focuses on the grassroots level through four mechanisms: community organizing, organizational development, civic participation, and promoting leadership by women."

In addition to their newsletter, The Lambi Fund also maintains a Blog so that supporters and other interested persons can follow their activities. The Blog can be found here.

By the way, I found The Lambi Fund on the Global Giving web site.

One final note before I close. The Lambi Fund was evaluated by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations , and the results was published in GEO's publication "RESULTS."

According to RESULTS, The Lambi Fund:

"has a four-piece organizational structure with two entities in the United States and two in Haiti:

1. A board of directors (United States) - governs the entire organization.
2. A U.S.-based staff - raises funds and awareness of Haiti in the United States
3. An advisory board (Haiti) - functions as a grantmaking committee and advises the Haiti office.
4. An executive office in Haiti - directs all program functions in Haiti; primary liaison to grassroots groups in Haiti.

Both the Haiti advisory board and the U.S. board of directors approve the projects. And it would seem that this type of board structure would allow for a broad range of expertise, input, local wisdom and perspective from a distance.

The evaluation published in RESULTS is fairly extensive and can be read at the URL posted above. But I would like to point out that RESULTS stated the "Lambi's overall approach to philanthropy comprises a symbiosis between popular education and a "bottom-up" relationship with Haiti's grassroots communities", which allows community organizations "to advocate for the needs of their communities and to develop their own project proposals."

According to RESULTS, The Lambi Fund contracted INFODEV , an indigenous Haitian evaluation firm, to conduct the evaluation of its first ten years of work. Along with appraising the impact of Lambi's work, its on site work, its impact on its beneficiary organizations and its strategy, there were evaluations of:

- the organizations relationship with its beneficiary organizations
- a sample if 11 of its projects
- the viability of its approach and
- the institutional performance

You have to give a lot of credit to The Lambi Fund for investing in having this evaluation made. But I think it was money well invested. Its this type of responsible management that will will give The Lambi Fund "staying power" and keep it on the "Development Scene" for a long time to come.

Don't take my word for it. Go to their web site and check them out.

The Lambi Fund of Haiti

1 comment:

Victoria Szatkowski, said...

Thank you Oscar! That was a wonderful overview of the work Lambi does. If I could stress one point, it is that all the decisions and solutions are made in Haiti, by Haitians, as they are living the reality. All the staff in Haiti are Haitian and most of our Board members are, too.

I am very impressed by all the projects you choose to highlight and you must be aware of what makes these projects different from something like CARE or the Red Cross. Lambi Fund in particular embodies the best practices of SUSTAINABLE development, which is really the only way any organization can survive. Lambi works with grassroots groups and work with them from the ground up, not in the top down model so common in western models of development like USAID or CARE.

Another important distinction is that Lambi is NOT an aid organization per se, but capacity building program, so that Haitian organizations are strengthened to be self-sufficient and not dependant on a constant influx of money and material.

Haitians really do have the means to progress and develop right there in Haiti. Their work ethic and determination has no match here, as we are all to comfortable. One of the greatest strengths of Haiti is the communal society and everyone working together for the common good. This almost sounds like socialism and if it is, it is the most positive aspect. The US has lost something in its' intense drive for more,more, more.

M├Ęsi Anpil! I hope that you may visit Haiti some day and see all the wonder and beauty there.