Dr. Eric Pierre has been a dentist in Toronto for the past three decades. He has also been Haiti’s honorary consul general here since 1995 and his demanding duties far exceed those of his fellow Caribbean diplomats in the city.
Ravaged by years of dictatorship, gross government incompetence and natural disasters, Haiti is always in need of aid and Pierre has consistently been on the forefront of that effort.
This led to the formation nine years ago of Pierspective Entraide Humanitaire, which has sent thousands of dollars in clothes, medical equipment, computers and school supplies to Haiti. The organization also supports orphanages and a shelter for indigent seniors in Grande Rivière du Nord.
In the aftermath of the January 12, 2010 earthquake that devastated the country, Pierre rallied Haitians and friends of Haiti in Canada for funds to purchase medicine, wheelchairs, non-perishable food and construction material, and many of them came through for him and for Haiti.
At Pierspective Entraide Humanitaire’s third annual fundraiser and awards gala last Saturday, Pierre thanked the individuals and organizations which have contributed to the country’s redevelopment. He also used the occasion to voice his concerns over some international organizations which, he said, used Haiti’s tragedy for personal benefit.
“The outpouring of emotions and grief after the earthquake evolved into a genuine and borderless global desire to lift Haiti instantly out of the rubble and reverse centuries of injustices and neglect,” he said. “Unfortunately, the process has been hijacked by professionals of the disaster industry who turned the misfortune of the poor into an opportunity to improve their bottom lines, balance their books and increase their personal net worth.
“Opportunists of all stripes utilized the blood-soaked cataclysm to further their ambitions,” he charged, adding that “development aid agencies are resorting to old practices, including preferential treatment to their own contractors instead of stimulating the local economy”.
Pierre said the reconstruction process must include grassroots and small, volunteer-driven organizations that will maximize the use of donations.
“We need to mobilize our young, talented and dynamic population and vibrant Diaspora making tremendous contributions all over the world,” he said. “Positive change will depend on how we prepare our young citizens in Haiti to play a role in the country’s future and how, at the same time, Haitian expatriates are integrated in the process.
“I am particularly motivated by a desire to help develop a deeper understanding of the human potential in Haiti. In this context, we can cooperate in putting in place a framework for ensuring the proper education of our youth and help them escape the cycle of poverty and hopelessness.”
Pierspective Entraide Humanitaire has collaborated with partners to build a new Catholic school near Port-au-Prince. The organization has also committed to rebuilding another educational institution near Pétionville which was destroyed by the earthquake.
To show its gratitude to individuals involved in the redevelopment of Haiti, Pierspective Entraide Humanitaire presented Humanitarian Awards to Jimmy Aristide and Stanley Lilavois.
The president of a local entertainment company, Lilavois spent most of last year in the land of his birth, working with organizations to help Haitians get back on their feet.
“That was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me to give back to my country,” said Lilavois, who was born and raised in Port-au-Prince before migrating to Canada 12 years ago.
Three weeks after the earthquake, Aristide – who grew up in Montreal and came to Toronto in 2002 – returned to Haiti and spent 10 days volunteering as a translator at a make-shift hospital.
Distinction Awards were presented to certified general accountant and community worker Keteline Pierre and activist Marie Antonia.
Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival Toronto also presented five $1,000 scholarships to Haitian students pursuing post-secondary education in Canada. The recipients were Judes Jean, Fernande Jean-Louis, Amikley Fontaine, Adolphe Fougere and Nava Laguerre.
“This scholarship encourages me to continue striving academically,” said Laguerre, a Ryerson University first-year Arts student.
Laguerre spent a decade in the United States before relocating to Canada three years ago. She took part-time courses at Ryerson’s Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education before enrolling full-time this year.
Sway magazine also presented a scholarship, which went to Guy Michael.