Grassroots Community Development in Borgne, Haiti.

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Development and support of a volunteer network:

HOPE has a large volunteer network named AJ plus that was formed following the cholera outbreak and around the time that ARC began funding the organization. While the volunteer network cannot be attributed entirely to ARC funding, it has continued on since the cholera outbreak with support from ARC though it requires minimal financial investment other than trainings as volunteers work for no compensation. It currently supports 2,000 youth volunteers, while at the height of the cholera outbreak, it supported 3,200 members. The name of the network AJ plus is an acronym that stands for Alyans Jen Plus or in English Youth Alliance Plus. The name is also a play on words as the acronym "aji plus" literally means "Act More" in Creole.

The AJ plus network is well-organized. The network consists of 65 smaller groups or cells representing different localities. Each cell has about 30 members, however this varies; the review team met one volunteer who was a member of a cell of 108 people. Each cell has a managing committee of about 5-6 people including a coordinator, a representative or delegate, and a secretary. Even more impressive than the organized nature of the cells, is the level of time commitment the volunteers make to their group. Each cell meets weekly; the review team met one volunteer from a cell that met twice weekly though this was out of the norm as most of the volunteers in the AJ plus focus group reported meeting weekly. The committee communicates with the wider network of volunteers while the coordinator of the cell communicates directly with HOPE staff.

The volunteers participate in a wide range of activities, most of them having to do with promoting healthy practices and behavior change. AJ plus volunteers will also mobilize communities and spread the word when there is a mobile clinic planned for their community. They also conduct clean up campaigns of water sources, disposing of rubbish around water source sites to prevent contamination and maintain safe water sources. They engage in behavior change and health education in a variety of ways: they will conduct sensitization campaigns in public spaces using megaphones to deliver health messages to the community; they will also use theater and songs to deliver messages at common public events like church, schools and even cockfights. At times, health workers from the main health center or Tibouk clinic will join volunteers for these sensitization campaigns. AJ plus volunteers also conduct household visits with health messaging. One beneficiary reported that recently AJ plus had held a sensitization campaign in his neighborhood to talk about chikungunya, which is a non-deadly illness that has just appeared in Haiti and the Caribbean in the last few months.

HOPE staff and management volunteers demonstrated a strong commitment to the program.

The Executive Director of the organization based in the U.S. works without compensation and is supported by two other U.S. based senior management volunteers who dedicate their time to HOPE without compensation. Paid staff in the field also demonstrated a high level of commitment to their jobs. Many have been with the organization for a year; the review team met several staff that had been with the organization for over fifteen years. While medical personnel work in highly specialized roles, the community mobilizer staff demonstrated a willingness to take on multiple roles and pitch in where needed. For example, the main Community Outreach Coordinator staff was a charismatic individual who was well known in the community and mentioned by multiple beneficiaries as a staff at HOPE who would be accessible should they have any need to contact the organization. This individual not only managed community works in sanitation and hygiene promotion, but also worked on the livestock distribution and education programs. Another community mobilizer staff who worked as a community health worker was also observed by the review team to be the main community organizer coordinating staff and patients at a mobile clinic; this staff also worked in a volunteer capacity to support the tree nursery program managed by a community based organization supported by HOPE. Furthermore, staff were willing to travel to difficult to reach locations by foot, walking at times for hours at a time in order to reach communities. All of these staff expressed enthusiasm for their jobs and commitment to the mission of the organization.

One staff shared his vision for the impact of HOPE’s work, ""I would like to teach my community to love it enough to never leave to live in the bad conditions of the bidon ville (slums in main cities)."