$1.5 million to aid Haiti's post-quake business recovery

Dec. 23, 2011 at 6:50 AM
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- International efforts to aid economic recovery after Haiti's devastating earthquake two years ago received a boost with a $1.5 million grant from the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.

Of all economic restoration measures in the Caribbean republic, job-creation among those dispossessed by the magnitude-7.0 earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010, remains a major priority for aid-givers, non-government organizations and international development agencies.

Haiti reconstruction remains in an early stage, with large parts of western regions near the town of Leogane, the temblor's epicenter, still lying desolate and large numbers of inhabitants in temporary shelters.

The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund said the $1.5 million grant would help Haitians "chart their own successful future" as the money would go to organizations bolstering the workforce.

The grants, in three parts, will promote the training of hospitality workers, entrepreneurs, students and teachers. Reconstruction and relief work in Haiti has drawn frequent criticism for being slow. Aid and charitable organizations on the ground say conditions after the quake remain challenging, making their work difficult to impossible at times.

The latest grant will be split between the Oasis Foundation, Quisqueya University and EducaTech.

A $264,000 grant will go to the Oasis Foundation to revive l'Ecole Hoteliere Haitienne, the Haiti Hotel School which was destroyed in the earthquake.

The school, managed by the Ministry of Tourism, is the only comprehensive hospitality training institution of its kind in Haiti. Some graduates will go on to careers at the Oasis Hotel. Others, with the help of the school, will seek hospitality industry jobs at other businesses in Haiti.

"Just as access to jobs is crucial for Haiti's development, local businesses -- especially the many new hotels under construction -- must have access to a skilled workforce for sustainable economic growth," Oasis Foundation Director Hildegard Epstein Cassis said. "We will be able to provide hospitality workers with the skills essential to building back a better Haiti."

Earlier this year, the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund made a $2 million equity investment in the Oasis Hotel in Port-au-Prince, which was being built when the quake struck. The non-profit Oasis Foundation is partnering with the Haitian Hotel School and Haiti's Ministry of Tourism, with additional support from Occidental Hotels and the USAID Haiti Recovery Initiative, to make the training program possible.

Haiti's Quisqueya University, which gets $914,000, is working toward enhancing its Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to develop both current and future business leaders. From classroom training to hands-on case studies, the center will give entrepreneurs the skills necessary for businesses to succeed.

"Given Quisqueya's track record, I am confident that this center will play a key role in improving the business environment in Haiti," said Paul Altidor, Clinton Bush Haiti Fund's vice president of programs and investments.

He said the university center will be a destination for business people and provide access to aspiring entrepreneurs and senior business executives.

A $285,646 grant to the Haitian for-profit enterprise EducaTech will aid plans to produce accountants, managers and other professionals through improved access to information technology. The money will buy computer equipment, educational resources and technology training for students and faculty at the state university.

EducaTech will establish a digital library at Haiti's Institute of Management and International Studies with computers and programs, digital boards and electronic databases.

EducaTech's aim is to give Haitian young people access to books and electronics, to create a competitive and productive workforce that will grow Haiti's economy. "In Haiti," EducaTech Co-founder Kesner Pharel said, "we can live much better through technology."

The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund is a nonprofit organization founded after the earthquake, when U.S. President Barack Obama asked former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to lead the fundraising effort to assist the Haitian people to "build back better."

The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund initially responded to the catastrophe with millions of dollars given in humanitarian relief.

By the time the fund was officially formed in May 2010, it transitioned to primarily serving its longer-term mission of sustainable reconstruction efforts designed to promote jobs and economic opportunity, empowering Haiti to chart its own successful future.

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