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Difference Maker

Jean Enock Joseph teaches self-help to lift Haiti

Pastor Jean Enock Joseph doesn't shy from Haiti's toughest problems. His message: Haitians have the ability to help themselves.

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In a country where the slow pace of reconstruction work since the January 2010 earthquake has received intense criticism – and plenty of questions about the efficacy of aid distribution – Joseph's projects show a transparent, intelligent use of limited resources. The hordes of international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that operate in the country – with far greater means at their disposal – could do far worse than follow his lead.

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In an ideal world, of course, MPE would be independent of international charities. But with the Haitian government unable to raise funds, Joseph is reliant on donations from overseas. The big difference between his organization and others, he argues, is that with his group, the foreign involvement ends with the donations: Haitians are the ones conceiving the ideas for their own communities and then staying the course to oversee their implementation.

"There's a big debate in the international press at the moment about the effectiveness of NGOs," Joseph says. "We can say that there are real doubts when several billion dollars are invested in a country, and you can't see the results with the naked eye. You need a giant telescope to see them.

"But the projects from Food For The Poor and the Fondation Saint-Luc [which we work with] are visible."

'Pastor Enock is a fabulous individual'

For Delane Bailey-Herd, Haiti project manager at Food For The Poor, a Christian international relief and development organization based in Coconut Creek, Fla., Joseph is the ideal person to have on the ground in Port-au-Prince.

"Pastor Enock is a fabulous individual," she says. "He understands the needs and the difficulties of Cité Soleil – the people, the gangs, where they're at. Both he and his group have such great ideas for change. We've come alongside him to empower him in these transformative steps. But he understands the area best."

A recent visitor to MPE's Cité Soleil Non-Violence Vocational Center, set up in 2006, watched apprentices beavering away furiously. Outside in the courtyard, a group of young men wearing protective dark glasses forged strips of metal. Inside, women tore bits of paper and cardboard into small strips.

When Joseph temporarily halted work to make a motivational speech, the members of his flock craned their necks to listen.

Both the metal forging and the paper project are designed to generate funds. The latter is a clever way of turning scraps of rubbish into compressed fuel briquettes. The idea not only helps tidy the streets by recycling unwanted refuse but provides an alternative to wood-based charcoal in a country that already suffers from severe deforestation.

The job of the apprentices is to sell these ideas to domestic and industrial consumers. The hope is that the money they generate can be plowed back into other initiatives.

"We'd like the government to take charge of the population and provide a subsidy equal to the one we receive from abroad – that's our hope," Joseph says. "But we're also looking to put in place production workshops and other structures so that MPE can guarantee its own funds to finance projects. That's our ultimate goal."

Other microprojects that Joseph says can help bankroll MPE include a cabinetmaking workshop and a garden center.

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