The work of Hands Together of the Palm Beaches began as a grass-roots movement in 2003, just prior to its inception as a non-profit in 2005. Founding members worked in collaboration with local Haitian leaders to provide health education to the Haitian community, hold blood pressure screenings. Soon after computer classes were begun for children and adults.
Our work quickly grew to address many challenges of the local Haitian community as they strived to acclimate to living in the U.S. In turn, we realized that the lives of the Diaspora and the people in Haiti are dynamically and passionately interwoven; we cannot regard one without deeply considering the social, financial, political and humanitarian circumstances of the other.
In 2006 a trip to their homeland was planned by the founders; and subsequently the Haiti component of Hands Together of the Palm Beaches was born. In the first years, work in Haiti addressed immediate needs of the people however it was soon realized that we must do everything possible to empower the people of Haiti. This meant addressing the severe lack of infrastructure and education throughout Haiti by providing the people with the tools, knowledge and financial support so the Haitian people themselves can influence change in their lives.
Our Haiti work began in 2006 in Gonaives, a large port city 3 hours north of Port-au-Prince, where we work with the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition. From 2006 to the present, we have worked with the Sisters to hold a yearly medical / dental clinic for the local people they serve. In 2009 we expanded our work to Jeandenis, a rural agricultural area 2.5 hours northeast of Port-au-Prince, and it is in Jeandenis where we now direct the majority of our efforts. Since 2009 we have been working in this impoverished village of more than 40,000 people to build infrastructure, support education, and provide leadership and empowering opportunities.
Education is the umbrella for our work. Locally, in Florida we have been providing adult programs for the past 13 years that teach computer skills, financially literacy, career advancement skills, health education and English literacy. In Haiti, we have supported educational programs by building a community center, starting a literacy program, sponsoring students to attend school, supporting a school food program, and this year, 2018, we completed the Notre Dame du Fatima Grade School, computer lab, and school kitchen.
We are a volunteer organization that is governed by a Board of nine members. We have two invaluable Haitian board members who guide our work in a culturally sensitive way and bring transparency and accountability to our work. Our office in Lake Worth, Florida is in the midst of and accessible to a large Haitian population. We are financially supported by donations and grants and we welcome any opportunity to speak about our work. In 2018 we changed our name to Hands Together for Haitians to reflect our work in both the U.S. and in Haiti.