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Rayjon shifts gears: humanitarian agency focuses more on training local leaders

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Tara Jeffrey

Rayjon is changing the way it looks at Haiti.

“We’re giving them tools – not just handouts,” said Dr. Glen Maddison, medical advisor of the grassroots not-for-profit aimed at enhancing life for Haitians in poverty.

The local doctor said it wasn’t until recently that he experienced a shift in perspective regarding Rayjon’s role in the Caribbean country.

“The idea of just plopping down and taking over is wrong,” said Maddison. “They’ve been there a lot longer, and they know what they need. We need to be asking, ‘how can we help them help themselves?’

“That’s the way it should be.”

Madison returned to Haiti last month with Rayjon executive director Ann Tuplin and project director Deb Austin for a ‘monitoring trip’ — ten days of intense meetings with “virtually every group that we’re involved with,” said Austin.

“Right from the cleaning staff to the program leads. We’re trying to be so much more open and honest. Everybody has a voice.”

Participants discussed the needs and future plans for Rayjon’s ongoing projects in St. Marc and Cap Haitian, which include schools, clinics, literacy and microcredit programs.

Rayjon will continue to put more emphasis on teaching Haitians to become trainers themselves, through leadership and volunteer roles.

“We’re asking everyone,” said Austin, “what can you contribute to make this program better?

“Our direction for the future is to continue down that path.”

Rayjon began a shift after losing its Canadian International Development Agency funding in 2011.

“There were massive reductions in what we were able to fund,” said Austin, who is also Rayjon’s vice-chairperson. “But the silver lining of that has been the commitment that we’ve seen from others.”

She’s talking about the generosity of the Haitians working to help each other, and the residents of Sarnia-Lambton, whose donations make up 100% of Rayjon’s $300,000 budget.

“This community makes it all possible,” she said.


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