My Journey to Establish a Nonprofit In Haiti

October 9, 2017

I am stuck working in an industry that I loathe. The people are from the pits of hell; the work is overwhelming, thanks to unproductive and lazy colleagues. Every morning, I find myself day-in and day-out suffocating, wanting to change the Haiti that the public seems to know.  Like many who want a new future for Haiti, we decide to work for a Haitian nonprofit that is already recognized as a 501(C)(3) in the United States (or Europe) or work for the Haitian government, but we all know that is pointless and useless. You can work for an American 501(C)(3) organization that will pay you hefty to work in Haiti, but what impact will you actually be making? You can decide to take the hard route and create your own nonprofit; hire a lawyer who specializes in nonprofits or spare a couple hours of your time to incorporate the nonprofit, build a board of directors, obtain an employer ID number, and more, if you catch the drift. What about Haiti? Are these nonprofits registering in Haiti? The Haitian government does not have a concrete database or know how many NGOs are operating in Haiti because these NGOs does not follow the code of ethics outside the United States.  As having a master’s in Nonprofit Management, I have been told countless times that if I wish to operate in a different country, I will have to also register with that country’s government. However, this is not done in Haiti. In my opinion, this seems to be the easiest route anyone can take.

After speaking to six lawyers and listening to some advice from some friends, I have realized that the route I am pursuing might be the hardest; register in Haiti, but not in the United States. I have been told that in order to create a “Haitian Nonprofit operation in Haiti, I will need to register in the U.S.” My issue comes with common sense; Why the fuck do I need to register in the U.S. when my programs and my employees will ALL BE IN HAITI? Does this make sense to anyone? It is strange that this is a norm for many NGO’s operating in Haiti, created by the diaspora because, in actuality, it will be easier for them to obtain grants, donations, investments, you name it. However, did it ever occur to donors that NGO’s are operating in Haiti without proper resources like FUNDS? They can’t ask for any of your donations because they are not registered as a 501(C)(3) in the United States, meaning you cannot get a tax exempt for your measly ten-dollar donation a month. They cannot use crowdfunding platforms in the States because, again, they are not registered 501(C)(3) organizations, a registered U.S. businesses, or U.S. taxpayers. Did it sink in yet?

“It’s easier to have the 501(C)(3) status because then our donors can trust that the money will be spent correctly.” Can you see my side-eyes? It‘s 2017, Haiti is still the Republic of NGOs, and yet, famine, natural disasters, protests, diseases, chaos repeat in a never-ending cycle. You sit on an AA flight heading to Haiti, and a group prevents the plane from taking off.

We’re missing one member of our team; she’s outside the gate! We’re going to do missionary work… Do you know who her mother is? AA will get a lengthy email from her mother.” After being delayed for three hours due to that missing member who was never in front of the gate, we meet these “missionary workers” at the Asu Rooftop Lounge that same night. My friends and I only spent three days in Haiti, and guess who was on the plane with us coming back?  The reason I mentioned this story is that funds are being mismanaged by Nonprofits here in the U.S., so clearly, what they are trying to fix will never be fixed.

I tried the easy route and attempted to register as a 501(C)(3) here in New York. Every time I spoke to a lawyer, I heard the smirk in their voice, and I had the rejection emails that said they could not represent me or help me with the process. I have gotten used to getting rejected over and over again, which has only fueled my determination. I have decided to only register in Haiti. I have made up my mind, and I am not going back. I can register in the U.S. within four years, but it’s not guaranteed.

Yes, yes, laugh your hearts away. I surely did. I even cried a couple of times, so before you create your own Nonprofit to operate in Haiti, please consider registering there as well. The registration process will, of course, be lengthy, but don’t let that discourage you.


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