why volunteer with chi

Learn more about what it is like to volunteer with an organization committed to Haiti and values.

CHI HAITI AUGUST 2017 from Sarah Dopf on Vimeo.

Haiti history

Many can identify Haiti as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, but few can speak to its history. Between geography, slavery, debt, and bad luck, Haiti has been faced with many tragedies. Sitting atop the major fault line between the Caribbean and North American tectonic plates and along a popular path for hurricanes has caused many natural disasters in Haiti. Yet, the country’s poverty is more deeply rooted in its history. In the 18th century, Haiti (named Saint-Domingue then)  was one of the richest islands in the French empire, producing 60% of all European coffee imports and 40% of all European sugar imports. To achieve such economic success, the French imported approximately 40,000 slaves per year. However, in August 1791, slaves in the northern plains began a rebellion. Although the uprising led to a brutal 12 year civil war, Haiti declared independence on 1 January 1804. However, freedom came with a price - 150 million francs in gold to be exact. While this price was reduced by half in 1830, this debt devastated Haiti’s economy as it had to borrow from American, German, and French banks to pay its reparations until 1947.

aid in haiti

In a place like Haiti, aid organizations often do not hold themselves to the same standards that might be required in the US. Tragic poverty drives good and kind people to take steps to help the Haitians. However, this desire is often distilled into a hazardous market: Haitians have nothing, so anything we offer is better than nothing, right?

In reality, this thinking is, at best, inefficient and wasteful. "Just doing something" often complicates and worsens challenges faced by Haitian communities. For example, planeloads of worn, donated clothing arrives in Port-au-Prince daily. This may be a kind, benevolent gesture, but what Haiti needs more than t-shirts is an economy. Haiti cannot subsist indefinitely on generosity. Haitians need jobs. One of the few employment options for Haitian women is to sew. But how can these women sell their products when free clothing is unloaded in Port-au-Prince daily? Our old t-shirts are hindering Haitian women from supporting themselves and their families.


Given the prevalence of malnutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, infectious disease, and other disease, practicing medicine in rural Haiti can be quite different from practicing in the US. Our providers receive a case definition and treatment guidelines book, which should be read prior to arrival in Haiti to create continuity for our patients in their diagnoses and treatment procedures. We encourage collaboration between providers throughout the week in Arcahaie; providers new to Haiti will practice alongside physicians experienced in the region.

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