Building a Network of Organizations
in the Haitian Diaspora
On the day of the earthquake, at about 3 pm, Paul Altidorp, a former SPURS Fellow and DUSP graduate from Haiti, Becky Buell, a fellow in the Community Innovator’s Lab (CoLab) in DUSP, and I completed a draft proposal for a pilot project building housing in Port-au-Prince. The idea was to take some recent innovations in affordable housing construction and development, along with low-cost energy and water technologies, and seek to deploy them in a small section of the city.
A few hours later the earthquake struck. Paul barely survived, running out of a hotel as it collapsed behind him. The next day, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a union that has over 60,000 Haitian members, asked those of us at CoLab if there was anyone at MIT who could help their members communicate with their families and friends in Haiti. Chris Csikszentmihalyi and Dale Joachim at the Media Lab, along with a large group of students at the Center for Future Civic Media, were already working on communications with Haiti and assisted SEIU’s rapidly organized Haitian family trauma center in Miami to connect family members.
Since then, we have been working on two tracks. We are working with SEIU and other organizations interested in building a network of organizations in the Haitian diaspora. A first step along this line was SEIU’s opening, along with Mayor Menino’s office, a Haitian trauma center in Dorchester to supplement the center opened in Miami. A second avenue of work will be to support Paul Altidorp and his colleagues in Haiti’s government in planning the rebuilding of Haiti. We want to continue our focus on low-cost neighborhood development, but given the level of destruction in Haiti, there are likely to be many requests for advice, spanning the range of MIT’s competencies.