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Walking with Partners - Dennis Petruzzi - Outreach Interim Director

Thu, Apr 14th, 2011

Walking with Partners

Dennis Petruzzi, Interim Director of Outreach to Haiti

Even before the earthquake there was an awful lot to do to improve the lives of the people we serve in Haiti. The earthquake simply made the challenge greater and took its place among obstacles like hurricanes, political unrest, cholera, and shortages of every kind.

Organizations like Outreach to Haiti could easily point to success stories and demonstrate progress of programs and their impact on the day-to-day lives of the people they touched: A student comes to the United States to study at a prestigious university; another is given a safe place to live and her grades return to normal, or a malnourished infant gains weight and "graduates" from our nutrition program. But in the world's eye there is no progress to be seen in the rubble that still fills the streets, the lack of sustainable political and economic infrastructure, and the overwhelming effects of poverty.

There are many agencies working in Haiti, but too few can say that they work together toward a cohesive and permanent solution.

A couple of events held last week here in Connecticut made me feel good about the approach Outreach to Haiti is taking as we go about our work. The first was a presentation by Dr. Jude Banatte about the work of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Haiti. The second was the annual CT Walks for Haiti, which is a walk for people of all ages and a fund-raiser.

Dr. Banatte is a physician, but his current work at CRS is with the Haiti Partnership Unit. Part of his presentation focused on the construction of shelters and the removal and recycling of rubble in the Christ Roi neighborhood, where Outreach to Haiti is located. This project not only provides shelter but creates economic opportunities for the neighborhood.  Outreach partners with CRS in this project and has played a major role in making it a template for similar projects across Haiti. Beyond this current effort, and perhaps more importantly, Dr. Banatte presented a comprehensive and strategic approach to make lasting change in Haiti.  Outreach hopes to be integral to this strategy, and we and CRS are committed to strengthening our partnership.

The CT Walk for Haiti benefits five Connecticut-based agencies working in Haiti, including Outreach to Haiti.  It is more than a walk. It is a showcase of Haitian culture. The event featured a steel drum band, food, photographs and books, the work of artisans-all celebrating Haiti. Each of the agencies participated in the planning and execution of the event, providing volunteers, arranging for sponsors and encouraging friends and family to take part in what turned out to be a very successful day.

Donors could donate to any one of the five agencies, but many opted to designate their donation to be shared equally.  Other than information about the agencies at the registration table, there was very little in the way of agency self-promotion. Many of the agencies' representatives wore the CT Walks for Haiti T-shirts as they went about their duties. It was truly a partnership event, and the partnership was for the benefit of Haiti.

Partnering is a large part of Outreach to Haiti's long-term strategic plan. We are committed to maximizing opportunities to partner with agencies already working in Haiti. As a relatively small agency we need to continue to show value to larger partners. At the same time, we need to show value to partners who make our work possible. Grantors, donors, twinning partners, staff, volunteers, and the people whom we serve-each need to be considered full partners if we are to succeed.


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