As a proud alumna of the CORO Women in Leadership Program, I have become a member of the CORO Pittsburgh Alumni Council (CPAC). I was very excited to host a CPAC breakfast meeting at my firm yesterday, and was especially excited to hear our guest speaker, Ali McMutrie of Haitian Families First.
Ali and her sister Jamie have been volunteering at an orphanage in Haiti since the early 2000’s. What struck Ali most powerfully about the orphanage was that many of the children there are not orphans. They have families that love them and want to keep them, but are so incredibly impoverished that their only option is to give their child away. When the earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, Jamie and Ali were incredibly able to arrange for safe transport for all of the children in their care to immediately leave Haiti for their adoptive placements (which were already in progress, but not finalized).
Although the earthquake literally flattened everything Ali and Jamie had worked on and for, their hearts were in Haiti. They knew that they could not go back to the status quo cycle of poverty. Ali and Jamie then founded the nonprofit organization Haitian Families First, that works with families to keep families together. Sometimes all it takes is a supply of formula. Tragically, it is not infrequent for mothers to die in childbirth in Haiti. The child is then usually left with family members, but none of them can breastfeed, and they can’t afford formula for the child either. Supplying a family with formula can mean the difference between a family being torn apart, or being able to stay together.
HFF also works on providing tuition assistance for children to be able to attend school. It only costs $180 per year for a Haitian child to go to school (and that includes tuition, uniforms, books, etc), but that is more than many Haitian families earn in two months. HFF also works to provide basic medical care for families that could otherwise not afford it. A simple untreated ailment like diarrhea can cause an infant’s death, and HFF can provide the medical cost assistant to get that very basic, but very vital medical service.
The fundamental principle of HFF is self sufficiency. Ali reported several stories of families that came to them in the most dire poverty, and HFF was able to provide that little bit of help to staunch the bleed, so that the family was able to work through some hard times, and ultimately d0 for themselves.
HFF is a truly incredible organization, and Ali and Jamie’s devotion to this cause is so phenomenal. They are truly doing good work. Ali is going to be in Pittsburgh through at least the end of the year, working on fundraising for HFF. I would LOVE to help this organization, so now I’m starting to rack my brain about what I can plan to help them out. While it is always AWESOME to make a simple donation to them, I’m thinking it would be fun to plan some kind of small event or happy hour to benefit them. Hm, what to do, what to do….
If you happen to be going to PodCamp Pittsburgh (how I wish, wish, wish I could make it! Next year! I promise!), Ali will be speaking there about how to use social media to meet immediate nonprofit needs. Her talk is sure to be awesome and informative, and I hope you check it out!!