Visiting and Volunteering
Hands Together is deep into a process of purposeful "back stepping" in an effort to make our projects more Haitian-driven and managed. We will need the assistance and training and support from U.S. volunteers during this period.
Our goal has always been to have theprograms and projects completely run by the Haitian people themselves -- and we have succeeded in doing this. But there is a tremendous need for formation, training and mentoring and here is where certain volunteers can be very helpful.
Our Needs and Limitations
The focus of Hands Together is outreach to the poorest of the poor. Most of our projects, by design and in keeping with our effort to foster greater independence, are staffed and run by Haitians themselves, and therefore, our need for volunteers is limited to people who can help with special problem situations and/or provide a special skill not readily available in Haiti. We are in a period of transition and our wish is to train our Haitian staff to essentially "not need volunteers," There is no real "formal volunteer program." We are not designed to easily host people, and there are many groups/guest houses operating in Haiti whose mission is that very thing. Rather, our primary mission is first and foremost to our various outreach programs. Furthermore, the environment in Haiti is extremely volatile and often unsafe which makes it very hard to create reliable volunteer positions.
Current Visiting/Volunteer Programs - 2014
People who are already in Haiti and have their own lodging, but wish to visit our headquarters, are welcome to arrange for a meeting with our staff. We request that you contact our Springfield, MA office to help arrange for this meeting. Over the past years, many groups and individuals have come to us unannounced wanting to to tour our schools and outreach programs. For security and protection of both our own staff and protection for daily visitors, we do not offer "tours" of our schools and programs in Cite Soleil. We are operating in a very fragile and volatile environment and every time we bring an "outsider" into these areas we tax this system and we add tension and strain on an already unpredictable situation.
Short Term Visitors
Hands Together periodically hosts "short-term" visitors -- usually individuals that are in Haiti to work on a very specific project or program for a time period of 1-3 weeks. Some examples: a physician helping our medical team with the mobile clinic services, a solar technician installing solar at one of our schools, a teacher/training professional making a seminar with our Haitian teaching staff. We normally do not provide lodging and hosting for people are not directly assisting us with a project or program. There is no set fee for visitors and we only ask that they consider making a donation to Hands Together.
We are not a guest house. We normally do not offer lodging/board for groups or individuals who are linked to programs other than Hands Together.
Delegations are groups hosted by Hands Together specifically designed to expose people to the work of Hands Together and the problems we face. The most common Delegations are from parishes who support us, but we sponsor programs for colleges, Catholic high schools and even groups of individuals who wish to undergo a "look and see" before committing to some type of longer term service. Normally, a delegation consists of3-12 persons, and last for a duration of5-7 days.
Because our mission is not "volunteerism", delegation programs are the ideal way to expose people to our programs and generate understanding and support.
Our current approach to "longer-term" volunteers has evolved from many years of experience. We no longer seek to build and nurture a "long-term volunteer community" , but rather seek out people who can help us meet very specific needs. As stated earlier, our real goal is to have everything run by the Haitian people. But there is certainly a tremendous need for mentoring and training. We encourage anyone interested in volunteering to call our U.S. office discuss our needs and to explore whether there might be a "natural" fit.
What we are looking for in a Volunteer
We are looking for people with a deep Catholic spiritual orientation and a dedication and willingness to serve the very poor, to sacrifice for the poor and to share in the daily struggles of the Haitian people. HT SFSV's serve as advisers and mentors to our existing Haitian staff.
We are looking for "comfortable, practicing Catholics" with experience in one or more of the following areas: education & teacher training, administration, auto mechanics/fix anything person, water well-drilling experts, or agriculture and sustainable development. Ideally, volunteers have experience already living and working in Haiti and a simple grasp of Haitian Creole.
Specific Volunteers Needed
- Educators - people with experience and expertise in training teachers and implementing simple curriculum and classroom management. Our schools lack well trained teachers and we need people to help them and our administrators.
- Administrators - people who can oversee the daily logistics and operations of 7 campuses, 300 staff people, large feeding program, a mobile clinic, and all the management and bookkeeping that such programs demand. We have local Haitian staff to do the actual work, but need mentors and people to teach and design simple systems for management.
- Builders and Mechanics - Everything breaks all the time in Haiti. We need individuals who "can fix and build" anything. Especially useful are diesel mechanics, general contractors, well drilling technicians.
- Doctors, nurses, Physician's Assistants - with the addition of our new mobile medical clinic we seek medical personnel to assist our Haitian doctor.
Farm Manager-Agricultural Development Expert Needed
HT established 50 acre farming and agricultural training compound - The Clarke Agricultural Project - and seeks individuals with extensive knowledge of farming and farm management to oversee the irrigation, planting and development components of this site. This person would work in tandem with a staff team of Haitian agronomists and other U.S. volunteers. This person needs to manage the heavy equipment, water irrigation systems and overall daily operations of the farm. The site will host peasants for 2 years to work the land and receive hands on training and share in the profits of crops cultivated and sold.
Who Is Eligible?
Hands Together seeks highly motivated practicing Catholics full of joy and optimism who are striving to authentically live their faith. The candidate must be between the ages of 22 and 70 years old. We desire candidates who can communicate in French or Haitian Creole, but will consider those who demonstrate a willingness to learn Creole.
Candidates must submit a written application and resume. If there seems to be a possible fit between Hands Together and the candidate, we will invite her/him to participate in a 7-14 day mutual assessment trip to Haiti. Candidates must pay their own assessment trip transportation costs - but room, board, and in-country expenses are covered by Hands Together. This in-country assessment experience allows the candidate to witness firsthand the work of Hands Together and the conditions of Haiti. Upon completion of the trip to Haiti, candidates must allow 1 month to pass before any decision for long term service is reached. If accepted Hands Together will pay air fare, room & board and a modest stipend.
Term of Service
Candidates accepted for long-term volunteer service are invited to spend 90 days (renewable upon evaluation) in Haiti as a Hands Together volunteer. Candidates wishing to renew his/her service after their initial 90 session, may be invited back after an evaluation by the volunteer committee. Hands Together will pay the airfare for renewable sessions.
Benefits & Compensation
Upon completion of each 90 day session, volunteers receive a $500 stipend. (From this, candidates may offset their airfare and insurance costs). Hands Together provides room, board and in-country travel expenses.
Traditions and Program Philosophy
Our volunteer programs are designed to help Americans better appreciate and understand the plight of the poor and disadvantaged in Haiti. Hands Together volunteers interact, work and live with the poor of Haiti. This philosophy stems from our belief in the innate sacredness of each human being that comes directly from a loving God. We recognize that we are linked to all people and that we are responsible for our own space and time - to be of some service and usefulness to those who enter our space and time. Emphasizing a great respect toward the people we serve, we practice a philosophy of service that encourages immersion into the culture and whenever possible, to affirm the dignity of the Haitian people. We design projects and programs in Haiti to be "Haitian-run", and our volunteers primarily provide advisory and training roles.
HT volunteers not only tap into the deep and lasting joy that comes from giving of oneself, but they also gain a stronger sense of their own tremendous worth as someone whose blessings and God-given talents are shared with this world. Every year, Hands Together enables Americans from all walks of life to directly experience the lives of some of the poorest people in the world.
There are certain basic tenants that provide the foundation for all Hands Together volunteer programs.
- We believe in a philosophy of service that primarily emphasizes respect and dignity toward the people we serve in Haiti.
- We believe that serving as a volunteer in Haiti is a privilege.
- We recognize that volunteering with Hands Together will be physically and emotionally demanding.
- We embrace a spirituality that emphasizes a belief and trust in a God who loves us all equally (i.e. Americans and Haitians together).
- We do not engage in political causes, controversy, debate or other advocacy issues that can divert us from our primary purpose of working alongside our Haitian brothers and sisters and helping the poor.