Konbit Sante actually began in April 2000 as the Greater Portland International Health Initiative (GPIHI). The original organizers consisted of Portland-area health care professionals, business people, and others, many of whom had previously been involved in international programs in less developed parts of the world. Since then, many things have changed, but the importance of Greater Portland as our home base has remained.
The Organizational Engine
Students from South Portland High School hand crafted a boat then sold it as a fundraiser for Konbit SanteWhile the heart and purpose of all that we do exists in Haiti, there is an incredible amount of mobilizing that takes place state-side to make that programmatic work happen, and most of that takes place in the Greater Portland area. Since 2003, Portland and Cap-Haitian have been official sister cities and we receive substantial support from the residents and businesses in the Portland area. Not only do individuals from Maine make up the majority of our volunteers and donors, they also provide significant in-kind donations. For example, our office space in Falmouth is donated by Northern Data Systems. Our warehouse space in Portland, where we store and stage medical equipment and supplies for shipping to Haiti, is donated as well by J.B. Brown. And this says nothing of the valuable items in the warehouse, the bulk of which are donated by local medical facilities, doctors and patients. We are so grateful for all these contributions.
Our volunteers work hard at home as well as in Haiti. In fact, their time in Haiti represents the smallest part of their contribution. While in Maine they are busy participating in planning sessions, analyzing data, searching for resources, assisting staff, and recruiting additional support. Other volunteers who are either not a match for the skills needed in Haiti or cannot travel for whatever reason are able to pitch in by helping in the office or the warehouse or by organizing fundraisers and events.
From ME to Haiti
A telethon held at Portland City hall and hosted by WGME13 raised nearly $60,000In the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake, it was remarkable to witness how the people not just from Greater Portland but around the state of Maine stepped up to do something to support their neighboring country and chose Konbit Sante as a mechanism for doing that. School groups, churches, businesses, restaurants, Rotary clubs, artists, musicians, story-tellers and more all developed creative ways to give. The City of Portland and WGME13 with the help of Tri-Maine Productions even organized an all-day telethon to give residents around the state and easy way to contribute. The local paper, The Portland Press Herald, sent a reportor and photographer to Cap-Haitien to see for themselves the impact Mainers have over the years. In June, we hosted Maine Walks for Haiti, a collaborative event with nearly 20 other groups in Maine who are doing work in Haiti. Nearly 300 people came out and walked around Back Cove to show their support and raise funds. And the list goes on.
We certainly invite individuals and organizations anywhere in the world to get involved in supporting our work, but no matter how global we become, it is impossible to deny the importance of our Maine roots.