Rebuilding in Haiti: Reflections on the 12th Anniversary of the Earthquake

Today marks the 12th anniversary of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which caused large-scale destruction to the country’s capital, Port Au Prince. It is a date Haitians will never forget; the day they experienced one of the worst natural disasters in the nation’s history, an earthquake registering 7.0 on the Richter scale. As the country continued to mourn the legacy of this disaster, in August of last year it was once again hit by another Earthquake, this time impacting the southwestern part of the island. The Earthquake was followed by Tropical Storm Grace two days later which swept across the country, causing further damage and suffering for the victims of the earthquake.

In response, the Goldin Institute launched a crowdfunding campaign to support our grassroots partners in Haiti, Daniel Tillias and Malya Villard-Appolon, who are on the frontlines responding to the needs of those most affected by the earthquake.

Will you join us in stepping up to support grassroots leaders in Haiti rebuild their lives?


The international response to the 2010 earthquake highlighted, starkly, disaster capitalism. Of the billions of dollars raised to help rebuild the country the majority was spent on foreign intervention and personnel, including international NGOs, UN agencies, and the US military. Very little of this money ever reached local communities, local businesses, or local civil society organisations.

Not only did the people of Haiti have to deal with rebuilding their lives following the disaster, they also became aware of how their suffering was being used to profit international institutions and consultants. $6.4 billion which they never saw.

"We must learn from the mistakes from the response to the 2010 earthquake. We need to sustain local businesses. We must invest in Haitian communities and businesses and use their services in this disaster relief as much as possible.” – Daniel Tillias

Recognizing the impact of these past failures, many local activists and leaders are resisting this model of foreign intervention and reliance on hand-outs (or on the hope that they might materialize), and calling on international donors and funders to channel their support to grassroots actors who have the knowledge and networks to ensure funds are directed and used adequately.

It has been five months since the 2021 earthquake hit Haiti. More than 2,200 people have died, 12,200 injured, and hundreds remain missing. More than 50,000 homes were destroyed and another 77,000 damaged. When reporting on disaster situations, death tolls often become shadowy figures and it becomes difficult to know what we can do to help; one of the most significant ways we can support is by trusting those local leaders who are on the frontlines of disaster response.

Daniel from Port au Prince, Haiti, works to improve the welfare of children and youth. In 2002 he co-founded a grass-root organization called SAKALA to promote peace and reconciliation in Haiti. With the computer Learning Center , Community Garden and sports activities, SAKALA has managed to provide a safe space in the heart of Cité Soleil (Haiti's largest underdeveloped area) where youth come together to grow, learn, and play.

Malya is a recipient of the CNN Hero Award due to her efforts against gender based violence in the displaced persons camps after the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti. She is also a co-founder of the Commission of Women Victims for Victims (KOFAVIV) working to support at risk women and girls.

As we reflect on this 12th anniversary of the great earthquake, we remain in mourning for Haitian families who lost so much, especially the women and children who were raped and abused as they were displaced to Petionville Square and other places across the country. We cannot forget. We need your support, especially for vulnerable women and girls who are still being victimized. -- Malya Villard Appolon

Together Daniel and Malya have been coordinating disaster response efforts on the ground to support children and women whose homes, businesses and families have been affected by the Earthquake and Tropical Storm Grace. They need urgent emergency relief to help women rebuild their small businesses to earn family income, to help them rebuild their homes and provide meals and school materials for their children. KOFAVIV supports 150 women survivors in Grand-Anse (Jeremie), Les Cayes, Barradères, and Port-Au Prince, who are currently under extreme conditions as their income generating activities have been ruined. Most of them are yet to recover from the previous Earthquake in 2010.

Please donate today to show your solidarity with Daniel, Malya and the people of Haiti.

Stand With Us In Haiti

By Malya Villard Appolon, Goldin Global Associate, Haiti

We are raising our voices on the 10th anniversary of a date Haitians will never forget – January 12, 2010 - when Haiti experienced one of the worst natural disasters in our nation’s history, an earthquake registering 7.0 on the Richter scale. In 7 seconds, thousands of lives were lost, and the survivors were left screaming in confusion and wondering at the fate of loved ones. Women were left without husbands, children without fathers or mothers.

In the days afterward, the toll rose to over 100,000 dead, countless wounded, and 1.5 million more displaced from their homes and communities. For women and girls in particular, the physical and emotional devastation never ended.

Hundreds of thousands of Haitian citizens were suddenly pushed into displacement camps with scant governmental or international aid, so that chaos and systemic violence against women resulted. We still live in daily fear of assault on our lives and well-being.

After the earthquake, I saw and experienced the violence against women lost our own homes and lived in informal tent cities that sprung up in its wake. My own house collapsed, and I personally lived in a makeshift tent in the Champ-de-Mars park, witnessing everything that happened. Before the earthquake, Champ de Mars was the largest public park in the Haitian capital, Port au Prince, and it became a tent city for the displaced.

THE COMMISSION OF WOMEN VICTIMS FOR VICTIMS (KOFAVIV) was founded before the earthquake, in 2004, with 5 women including Marie Eramithe Delva, Joseph Solange, Ruth Jean Pierre Elena Fevry, and me. We were all victims of sexual violence and massacres who decided to join forces to fight to get justice for other women as well as for their children. Because the families of the victims have never been able to get justice, we decided to fight for other women to get justice one day.

As we were experiencing all sorts of violence after the quake, we had to put in place strategies that involved men in patrolling the camps to stop the violence, developing whistleblowing methods, and establishing male-to-male accountability for prevention. We also were involved in a lot of domestic and international advocacy.

Even today, there are still people scraping by in encampments with names such as Villam Beta and Camp Tokyo. Displaced women and girls are still subject to all forms of violence: physical, sexual and economic. Sadly, we have lost many young girls without parents who have died due to the disease and violence that often accompany prostitution.

We are asking the international community to intervene in Haiti at this moment because we see what the women are experiencing is another disaster, where they cannot go to work or to the markets due to a rapid increase in criminal gangs that filled the vacuum left by the lack of a functioning government. Women are forced to stay inside with their children. There is no work, no accessible health care or education. Trapped, women and girls have died with their babies in their wombs. These gangs have taken over almost all areas in Haiti, and the most vulnerable in this situation is women.

We are doing what we can.

We are teaching women martial arts and working with trusted men who volunteer to provide safety and raise awareness. We have taken these programs to some of the hardest hit communities in Haiti: the Village de Dieu La Saline, Grand Ravine, Cité Soleil, Martissant, Bel Air, among them.

Ten years after the earthquake, too many women and girls are still feeling the aftershocks. We are stepping up, but we need the international community to stand with us.

Can We Talk About "Celebrating" International Women's Day?

International Women’s Day is a particularly relevant moment for us, as it coincides with our founding 15 years ago. Since that day, we have struggled to fight for the rights of women and girls who have suffered from sexual and gender-based violence through the Commission of Women Victims for Victims (KOFAVIV) in Haiti.

International Women's Day was observed on March 8, a moment during which women can gather around the world and also in the four corners of every country to discuss.

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For us women of Haiti, we will have the opportunity like all women in the world to celebrate on March 8th, but it must be said that we are in a very special situation. It is quite different for us.  

Because of the situation in which our girls and women live, we wonder if we too can talk about ‘celebrating’ International Women's Day.

It is true that we are all women with aspirations, whether we are white, black, yellow or blue. In all societies and all countries, women are victimized but for us Haitian women, our situation is worse. We cannot talk about celebration.

For the women who are rich, they can sit down and take a moment to reflect on the significance of the International Women's Day, but for the women who are vulnerable, can they talk about the celebration? At this very moment, these women are experiencing really difficult situations. I think it's time for them to sit down and talk to see how to get out of a terrible situation. It's a good time for all the women of Haiti to sit together to discuss and see how to get out of this situation that I call 'Inhuman.’

International Women's Day is also an important date for us because it coincides with the anniversary of KOFAVIV’s foundation and our mission to fight for women and bring to justice the perpetrators.

March 8th, 2019, was another opportunity for us to make recommendations to the international and national community to work with us in order to help to help Haitian women get out this difficult situation. That does not mean only women from Haiti are victimized but for us, it's worse when compared with others. When we talk about gender equality, we also talk about sexual violence against women. Women have to participate in these discussions because it is up to them to make their situation known. They are the only people who really know their pain and suffering. No one else can defend us better than the women themselves.

It is true that International Women’s Day’s chosen theme of balance for change is really appropriate, really beautiful. The theme talks about women's innovation without partiality, but let's say it out loud with all our hearts because I dream one day of a March 8 for all women, when the women from Haiti can gather to really have a celebration of the International Women's Day.

Haiti Update: Moving Women to Safety

On behalf of KOFAVIV, the Commission of Women Victims for Victims, I want to share this update and our appreciation with the global network of partners of the Goldin Institute.  Thanks to your support, I am pleased to report that we have successfully moved more than twenty women who were under immediate threat to safety.

Sadly, there has been a rapid uptick in political and gang-related violence in Port au Prince and across the Caribbean over the last few weeks. In Haiti, communtities and neighborhoods that are already disadvantaged, like Martissant and Grand Ravine, were hit the hardest.  As usual, this violence disproportionally effects women and girls.  As a known center for victims of sexual violence in Haiti, our office was inundated with women and girst seeks refuge from the violence and sexual assualt.  Given that the violence was wide-spread and our lack of space for all of these women at our offices, we needed to take emergency action to relocate the women and girls seeking refuge with us.

[quote]With no good options for providing safe houses in Port au Prince, we turned to our partners in the Goldin Institute's global network for support in taking quick action to move these women and girls to safety outside the city. Thanks to your support, more than 20 women and girls are now safe.[/quote]

Today, I wanted to share some of their stories with you.  Please note that we have obscured the faces and names for safety.

Haiti0418000bI am 70 years old and I have lived in current neighborhood since 1982 with my 6 children. My oldest child was in the hospital for a life-saving surgery for her kidneys.  On my way home from the hospital, bandits appeared with gunmen shooting in front of me as I neared my home. The bandits had just left my house.


Haiti0417008I have 4 kids and I live in Grand Ravine with my husband. Now I'm going to do everything for the kids because bandits in the area have shot their dad while there was a massacre in the Great Ravine. When it happened, I was going to to the market to sell hypolite fire logs. While I was there, the bandits came to the market with their weapons and I worried about my kids so I ran home. I can't stay at my house anymore and I can't sleep at night. I have a baby boy in my hand; I could not find a safe place to go with them until I found KOFAVIV. They helped me find a place outside the city to take my kids until the violence ends.


Haiti0418000I take care of 6 children by myself because their father died. I went to the streets to pick up plastic bottles to sell so I could care for my kids. Bandits with weapons came to my house and broke all that I had in the house. They beat me, and ever since then then I have a sore stomach because of a big kick in my stomach. I left home because I don’t want them to come back and kill me with the children. At first I was able to sleep with my kids in a friend's house but, I wasn't able to be in the house when she wasn't there so we'd have to be on the streets all day. We needed a new place to stay.


Haiti0418003I live in the Grand Ravine with my 2 sons. Every day and every night I had to move to a different home. Children are crying because I'm running with them. Every time we turned around the area became incomprehensible to me.  These bandits have no fear of the police and the day is full with shooting. With these bandits in Grand Ravine, its only a matter of time before we're going to be raped and tortured. The bandits even call my phone as they go into my home. Because I was making a living by doing laundry at my home, now I can't find a place where I can afford it. KOFAVIV helped me find a new place for now.



My name is Marie and I'm from Grand-Raven, where I grew up since I was small. I have been subjected to many acts of violence in the area. I have 2 children, one son and one daugther, who live with me in this very difficult time. Bandits in the area of ​​killed my husband and violated my sister. These villians also tried to attack me, but I escaped with only the clothes on my back. My child cannot go to school because he is hiding with me. The bandits are still using my home as a base.


Haiti0418005My name is Roselène I'm 33 years old. I have a child living with me and mysister in the neighborhood called Village of God. I have been subjected to extensive violence in the area because of these ​​bandits who came to my home. They violated my sister and tried to violate me too.  They beat me and I am in the streets now, and I cannot return to my house.


While these women were all subjected to violence and fear that will be difficult to heal from, thanks to your support they have been removed from this immediate danger for now. With your continued support, we will bring them back home when the violence is under control and help them rebuild their lives.

Thank you to everyone who made a donation, especially Sam Cardella and our friends at World Wings, for making this emergency rescue possible.

Continuing the Fight Against Gender-Based Violence

In recent weeks, the threats to the Commission of Women Victims for Victims team (KOFAVIV), and the women whom they serve have only become more treacherous in the face of increased gang violence, and shootings. Nearly two dozen women have been assaulted in the brewing climate of political instability with half that number still stranded at KOFAVIV's office space awaiting relocation to safer environments.  

[quote]"Emergency support from the Goldin Institute is the only way we can get these women out of harms way right now. Fights between armed groups have been going on for some time, but this week is worse than normal. We know there are many more women are unable to come to our office or get taken by us to hospitals."[/quote]

Fourteen years since co-founding Haiti’s Commission of Women Victims for Victims, or KOFAVIV in its Creole acronym, Malya Villard is now living in Philadelphia, having been forced to leave her country for her own safety. The longtime Goldin Institute Global Associate has now received a “Green Card” allowing her to live and work in the United States legally, but even with that good news, her heart and mind still long for Haiti and the work of KOFAVIV.

Based now in Philadelphia, Malya's access to verifiable information isn't as consistently available as before but she remains in touch with the team in Port au Prince daily. In effect, KOFAVIV is now operating a under a siege with no obvious relief in the near future. "It's always a matter of securing attention for our condition and monies to ensure safety and support for affected women," she explains. "The struggle is about holding those committing the violence and shootings at bay, away from our women. The kids are always the ones who suffer the most in these times."



The most recent global headlines from Haiti have been focused on ever-widening sex scandals involving aid workers with Oxfam UK and now Save the Children implicated in the sexual exploitation of civilian Haitian women and girls to whom the aid workers were supposed to provide humanitarian assistance. Against that unseemly backdrop, the remaining staff and leaders of KOFAVIV continue to provide security and also respond to survivors of sexual violence.

Though thousands of miles away, Malya has not ceased to be a resolute spokesperson for KOFAVIV and advocate for the well-being of Haitian women. From her perspective, the last six months in particular have been especially challenging. “Things are not going too well,” Malya notes by phone one early Saturday morning before going to work in Philadelphia.

[quote]“I may not be there in person with my sisters, but we are on the phone constantly. We coordinate every day. Women are still being victimized, and struggling for everyday survival.”[/quote]

A signature program of KOFAVIV are the male security patrols, trained and gender-sensitized men who go out in teams in urban and rural areas as well as pockets of displacement throughout the country to provide safe passage as well as accompaniment to Haitian females. The program started in partnership with the Goldin Institute shortly after the 2010 earthquake. “They’re still being trained and are motivated to do the work,” observes Malya. “The male patrols and the KOFAVIV staff are working. Though the men are most often without any funding, they continue to train, patrol and remain active in the community because they still have families, and family members who are risk of assault, or worse.”

As the humanitarian and development situation in Haiti has drifted further from the public conscience over the past several years, so has the stream of monetary assistance. “The money we used to receive just isn’t coming in anymore,” she laments. “Our only support, consistently, is from the Goldin Institute.”

The Goldin Institute gratefully acknowledges the ongoing support of our partners like the Flordia Chapter of World Wings International who help empower the work of Global Associate Malya Villard Appolon and her team at KOFAVIV.

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According to Medecins Sans Frontieres, four out of five people who seek help at its Pran Men’m clinic in Haiti are survivors of rape and sexual assault. An average of 80 sexual violence survivors are seen there per month. Only since 2005, the year of KOFAVIV’s founding, has rape been a crime in Haiti.

Just as reliable lines of communication are still elusive across that nation, KOFAVIV’s team is managing to operate without office phones, though the organization still maintains an office and can use online video communication services. As female victims of sexual violence, assault, and other interpersonal crimes still come to KOFAVIV for assistance, the team now uses their personal phones to receive messages and coordinate the response. Additionally, KOFAVIV team members proactively go to the hospitals and do intake themselves for people coming for treatment and aid, then transport them back to the KOFAVIV offices for continued support.

As Malya identifies them, the three main struggles impacting KOFAVIV and organizations like it serving Haitian women at risk of violence are: lack of financial resources; often unreliable communications via phone and Internet; and a lack of physical space to house victims.

Despite the obstacles, Malya and her colleagues insist they cannot stop.

[quote]“I was one of those victims. I was a victim, two of my children were victims, and we didn’t find our justice. So, I nor my agents at KOFAVIV will not stop until we find justice for all of the women we help.”[/quote]

As We Approach An Important Anniversary

Global Associate Malya Villard (left) with translator and friend Marie Boursiquot during a Skype conversation with our offices.Next week will mark the 5th Anniversary of the Haitian Earthquake. Although in and of itself this is a sad occasion to have to commemorate, today we were reminded of the many glimmers of hope to build upon, while speaking to our Global Associate from Port-au-Prince, Malya Villard-Appolon.

While reflecting on this anniversary, Malya discussed topics ranging from her own personal observations during the Earthquake, to the over 80,000 Haitians still without a home living in the same type of camps that has made her ongoing work so important.

We look forward to sharing more from this interview in the coming week as the official anniversary date approaches. 


New Findings in Gender Violence in Haiti

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has released a new report with findings on how significant gender-based violence hinders development in Haiti. This piece summarizes some of the more significant discoveries made by the report. 

Unfortunately, these findings are not entirely surprising and reinforce to us the importance of supporting women-led community based solutions to addressing violence. Our project work in Haiti allowed us to work with, and be inspired by, women who stood brave and used their own creativity to eradicate the violence they encountered in the aftermath of the 2010 Earthquake.   

Global Associate Malya Villard (right) speaking at Loyola University during her visit to our Chicago offices last spring. Photo Credit: Goldin InstituteToday is the perfect day to commemorate the work of our partners like Malya Villard-Appolon, who was instrumental in bringing her community together to combat sexual violence through her organization KOFAVIV. We salute the accomplishments made and the framework left in place to build on the good work done.