Begun in 2011, Wood for Haiti was founded to ship beetle-killed wood from the NW U.S. to Haiti to rebuild that island nation with homes engineered especially for a hurricane and earthquake prone region.
Despite the five years of hard work of a committed Board of Directors in Montana and hard-working organizations in Haiti, WFH faced insurmountable barriers that made it impossible to make progress. Therefore, WFH was disbanded in 2016.
Through the dedicated outreach of our Haitian organizations, WFH was able to develop a list of nearly 600,000 Haitians who were thrilled with the hope of their building a new and better nation together.
Negotiations with the U.S. Government, USAID, the UN, wood products organizations, transportation companies were at first promising. Enthusiastic Momentum was building in Haiti for a better future through a quality housing that was to be constructed by Haitian workers. What happened is the USAID, right in the middle of this rise towards success, made the decision not to build any more homes in Haiti. The Interim Haiti Reconstruction Organization formed by the UN and headed former President Bill Clinton, in fact, was a good and important idea that was never properly funded or organized. We made quite remarkable headway in Haiti by meeting with Cabinet Ministers, receiving property from the Haitian government upon which to build a campus for homeless children, and finding a way to get product into a Haitian ports while avoiding the payment of bribes to port workers. All of this forward movement came to an immediate standstill when the Prime Minister was ousted and, of course, this meant that all of the Cabinet Ministers were replaced. This complete shift of government leadership happened twice in five years. Once we felt we were creating momentum, the wind was taken out of our sails. A small rogue group in Haiti took it upon themselves to begin collecting money on WFH's behalf without any authority to do so. This group promised WFH homes, collected money for already impoverished families. This scandal became national news in Haiti and although the culprits were tried and put into jail, WFH's name had been besmerched. In addition, the several groups with which we were working began to fight between each other for attention and power. Back home, we just couldn't create enough financial support for the project unless there was money to be made on this end from the project.
Three of our Board members spent about a week in Haiti. We toured the small nation and met with enthusiastic groups throughout the nation. Sometimes, we met under canvas covered shelters, sometimes in community centers and churches and sometimes in large soccer stadiums. The need for good homes, a lift out of poverty and a way to work around corruption was palpable. The people to whom we made presentations were good people, wonderful people and deserving people. Underneath all of this positive energy there was a slow moving river of power grabbing and a wish to be the "first" to gain WFH's attention. We were promised large plots of land by land owners but upon visiting the property learned that rather than having many acres there was less than a half an acre available. We saw and felt first hand the desperation of people enslaved by poverty. We observed poverty pitting organization against organization, community against community, families against family. All we wanted to do was bring a wonderful idea to fruition; all the Haitians wanted was better living conditions, but human beings got in the way of achieving those goals.
Dr. Gary Funk, President of the former Wood for Haiti is writing a book titled "Essays on Haiti" that is a series of reflections from the five years of working to rebuild Haiti.