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Haitian Nonprofit In Boynton Beach Says Haiti Needs More Than Medical Supplies

Cosy Joseph, left, founder of Gaskov Clergé Foundation. Suze Eleanor Millien, right, volunteer, sort through donations in boxes at the Boynton Beach Fire Station 1
Wilkine Brutus
Cosy Joseph, left, founder of Gaskov Clergé Foundation. Suze Eleanor Millien, right, volunteer, sort through donations at the Boynton Beach Fire Station 1. August 18, 2021

Stacks of alcohol prep pads and other medical products are packaged in the storage room inside the Boynton Beach Fire Station 1, separated by the shelter supplies. The emergency donations are ready to ship to Les Cayes, Haiti — the small city in the southwestern region that bore the brunt of a 7.2-magintude earthquake that took the lives of more than 2,000 people and injured thousands more.

Cosy Joseph, founder of Gaskov Clergé Foundation, says her 88-year-old father survived the powerful quake.

“And, you know, my cousins and my aunts are also in Les Cayes. By the grace of God, our family members are safe,” said Joseph. “We didn't lose any family members in our immediate family. But we had some damage to our home.”

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This is the second major earthquake in the country in a little more than a decade. Joseph says “every effort counts” for a city on the edge and struggling to recover.

On a recent day at the fire station, Joseph and Suze Eleanor Millien — one of several volunteers — tape boxes of supplies and help in whatever way they can.

The city of Boynton Beach is a sister city of Les Cayes, Haiti. With the support of the city, and Broward Commissioner Dale Holness, Gaskov Clergé Foundation is sending medical supplies to a clinic called Klinik Fonfred, in a town just outside of Les Cayes.

The Haitian-led foundation had already partnered with Forward In Health, another nonprofit on the ground in Haiti. Joseph says the clinic has been in operation since 2015 and Haitian doctors and staff see about 12,000 patients per year.

Many people in the diaspora, including Haitian-American elected and appointed officials across the country, are calling on donations to organizations with direct ties to people who need help the most.

Haitians still harbor mistrust over well-funded foreign aid agencies' response in past disasters, like the 2010 earthquake.

Joseph says many Haitian-led nonprofits want to empower their own networks. But small Haitian nonprofits should still get vetted for transparency and that includes the central and local governments of Haiti.

“The big elephant in the room is really the mistrust towards Haitian-led organizations. I think that is a whole lot more damaging than the potential anger towards [non-governmental organizations],” Joseph said.

Gaskov Clergé Foundation donations.jpg
Wilkine Brutus
Gaskov Clergé Foundation receive medical supplies and shelter equipment at the Boynton Beach Fire Station 1. August 18, 2021

Joseph, an IT professional, has been helping her hometown of Les Cayes, Haiti, for more than 20 years.

“And the international NGOs are still getting a big chunk of the funding and we are still scraping," said Joseph. "We need to come up with an action plan on how can we build trust and how can we affect Haitian-led organizations so that we can empower Haitians to take care of their communities.”

Vetted Haitian organizations need sustained monetary support, political representation and cultural capital.

Joseph wants to see humanitarian assistance done through a coordinated Haitian-led platform that is endorsed by the Haitian government, so that entities are being led by the priorities of the government and its people.

For now, Joseph says she’s seeing increased collaboration between Haitian-American organizations in South Florida.

“We do have the Haitian Diaspora Emergency Response Unit that keeps a very open communication with the multiple organizations that are part of it,” said Joseph. “And I also see other groups that are doing similar activities like Haitian American Nurses Association and the Haiti Renewal Alliance.”

The Gaskov Clergé Foundation continues to accept supplies at the Boynton Beach Fire Station 1.

“On our needs list right now are medical supplies which is what’s happening here [at the station]. As well as shelter. Shelter is a big problem that we need to solve and we need to solve it strategically,“ said Joseph. “We get our priorities from the Haitian government — so from whatever the Prime Minister of Haiti puts out.”

In an effort to keep the local economy in Haiti intact, Joseph says the long term goal — echoing Haitian-American elected officials — is to support Haiti by purchasing goods and services within the country.