(July 11, 2012) The work of Reverend Deacon Leroy S. Close at 1000jobsHaiti was featured in a Huffington Post article by Marc Ozburn, founder and CEO of TheDoGooder.com. Ozburn reports that at age 16, Buck (Close's nickname that he continues to go by today) was introduced to the Salesian Sisters of Haiti by his mother. Close's family, the article says, had helped the nuns build schools and orphanages in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince to serve needy children. Ozburn notes that the experience was life-changing for Buck and sparked his desire to help the struggling country.
According to the article, during the last 40 years, Buck and his wife Lucy have traveled to Haiti countless times where they witnessed slow progress with governmental regime changes, continued violence and technical delays. Ozburn reports that in 2008, the Closes had dinner with Partners in Health co-founder, Dr. Paul Farmer. Farmer, like Buck and Lucy, the article says, had a deep connection to Haiti and gained fame by building rural health clinics there. According to the article, these clinics became a healthcare assistance model for developing countries. The article also attributes the meeting between the Closes and Dr. Farmer to the development of 1000jobsHaiti.
In the article Buck explains, “The three of us came up with the idea for 1000jobsHaiti because we saw that job creation was the most important thing we could do in Haiti. Dr. Farmer's organization has made huge strides in health care and education in the Central Plateau of Haiti and 1000jobsHaiti's goal is to make similar progress, over time, in the field of economic opportunity."
Ozburn reports that 1000jobsHaiti fights poverty by providing sustainable jobs to Haitians at fair wages. The organization, he explained, doesn't function like a traditional nonprofit. It builds partnerships with local, motivated Haitians that are anxious to improve their lives through their own efforts and creativity.
According to the article, one of the first accomplishments of the organization was employing small women's groups in the production of artisanal goods like embroidered or knitted table linens, bed linens and tote bags. Ozburn reports that 1000jobsHaiti trained the groups and then supported them by selling and merchandising their products in the United States.
The project was in the middle of building sales and merchandising when the earthquake struck in Jan 20120. In the article, Buck explained, “We spent six months using all of our resources to bring emergency aid to our employees.”
Working within the new conditions in Haiti after the quake, 1000jobsHaiti formed a company to manufacture material for the new wave of construction happening in Haiti. The organization, as noted in the article, employed 25 men at fair working wages and currently produces concrete and earthen blocks used in the rebuilding effort.
“Our projects change lives in a pretty direct way," Buck said in the article. “They give someone without income a way to earn a living and do it by creating, over time, sustainable business models that can carry on without an outside charity being involved.”
According to the article, 1000jobsHaiti's relies on Haitian management to oversee the day-to-day functions of the construction business and women’s employment groups. Here in the United States, the organization has a marketing operation that mostly serves the women's groups in sales and product design. In the article, Buck explains that finding the right Haitian leaders is essential to the project and they remain careful about expansion, making sure employees can depend on their jobs even when demand might drop.
Looking forward, Ozburn reports that 1000jobsHaiti plans to continue to grow the construction business. The Closes, the article says, are focusing their efforts in the United States to raise enough money to purchase $60,000 of equipment which would double their capacity and increase sales margins at the same time. Currently, the organization is selling more blocks than it can manufacture. With the new equipment, employment could double in Domond, the small rural town where the concrete blocks are made.
In closing, the article states that although there have been ups and downs to their progress, the Closes remain undeterred in their efforts on behalf of the Haitian people.
“This is not work for people who want overnight success,” Buck states in the article. “However, I'm confident our chosen strategy will be embraced.”
Original Article - DoGooder Spotlight: Transforming Haiti, One Job at a Time