After 13 years, one week, and four days with the Pan American Development Foundation, I am moving on. As I left the office today, I had a powerful mixture of feelings. I am sad to say good-bye to so many good friends--people who have struggled with me as we fought to make changes in Haiti. I am sad to leave an institution that has an incredible potential to make an impact not just in Haiti, but throughout the hemisphere. Yet I am excited for the change and I know that I am leaving at the right time.
On January 7, 2000 I began directing a complicated program designed to help rebuild Haiti following the passage of Hurricane Georges. Yes, it had already been 15 months since the Hurricane had hit Haiti. But development work moves slowly. I accepted a twenty month position that grew into a 13 year career.
I loved the Hurricane Georges Reconstruction Program. We built roads, fixed irrigation systems, planted trees, distributed seeds, and helped the Haitian government to develop its community-based disaster management system--the one that is still in place today.
In 2003, I moved with my family from Haiti to the Dominican Republic to start a program to strengthen cross-border ties in the Haitian-Dominican borderlands. The Our Border Program grew into a powerful initiative that helped to increase investments in the border and improve relations between the two countries. I loved the team that we had and I loved how we were able to move between working with rural farmers in the borderlands and top officials in both countries.
Nothing matched the challenge that I faced when the earthquake hit. Less than 24 hours after the earthquake I crossed into Haiti and quickly took over managing our Haiti operations. The early days were overwhelming. Again, I had a wonderful team that pulled together despite incredible challenges and did unbelievable work. I know that I pushed them too hard, but there was so much that needed to be done.
In July 2010, I moved to Washington to oversee the Haiti program from Headquarters. This was a new challenge. I was no longer the boss and had to mediate between the needs of the field and the demands of those above me. We continued to do great work. We've created strong social networks in the most difficult neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince. These networks have in turn helped to start businesses and develop reconstruction plans. We've repaired nearly 10,000 houses and each one was inspected by a government inspector and certified by them as safely repaired. Now we are funding larger buisnesses--those with up to $1 million in revenues a year--to create new, sustainable jobs.
I'm also proud of how I have left PADF. Ever since I moved to Washington, I have tried to work myself out of a job. By helping those around me and seeking the best possible people, I have worked hard to pass off my authority (not just responsibilities) to others. As I walk away from PADF, I leave an institution in very good hands. PADF will not replace me, but I suspect that they will miss me.
It has been a wild ride for these thirteen years. Especially in the years since the earthquake, I have made a lot of painful mistakes. Yet these mistakes seem to haunt only me. I have been deeply touched by the support that I have received from my team in both Haiti and in Washington, DC.
I am also excited by this move because I am joining a wonderful new team. I brought Kit Miyamoto to Haiti the week after the earthquake. He spent an entire month volunteering his time helping Haiti to start on the right path. We partnered together to conduct a detailed assessment of the impact of the earthquake and then to repair those 10,000 houses. Miyamoto International is a purpose driven company, dedicated to making the world a better place and to saving lives. I am thrilled to join their team. My job is to open their DC office and to help them to expand beyond Haiti. Having seen the high cost that Haiti paid for poor quality construction, I have become evangelical on the importance of improving construction quality. Miyamoto International, a California-Japanese seismic engineering company, is the perfect platform for this message.
I am sad, nervous, and excited about the change. I love what I have done with PADF and am very excited as to what I could do with Miyamoto.