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Meet Rich and Lisa Harris of The Road to Hope

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rich and Lisa Harris.

Rich & Lisa Harris, founders of The Road to Hope, live in Denver, Colorado and own The Harris Law Firm. They have nine children, two of whom are adopted from Haiti. They have dedicated their lives to children’s causes. After visiting Port-au-Prince in July of 2009, they were struck by the magnitude of the needs of the people of Haiti, especially the children. They immediately immersed themselves in the history, culture, and poverty of Haiti. They began to meet other Americans and Haitians who were already doing wonderful work in Haiti and decided to build an organization that would team with, support and grow with leaders of communities. Rich and Lisa strongly believe that this is a pivotal moment in the history of Haiti – one of promise and hope and, that by teaming together with others, we can truly make a difference in our neighbor just south of Miami.

The history of Haiti is a tapestry of well-intentioned projects, military interventions, humanitarian efforts and religious missions. Some of these have seen remarkable success. Some have left the Republic of Haiti weaker for their efforts.

We at The Road To Hope recognize that, in order to make a lasting improvement in the lives of those in need, our commitment must be tremendous and we must involve the Haitians themselves in every phase of planning and implementation. Our efforts to lift up these children must include a true partnership with local leadership. It is through the intimate participation of local clergy, teachers, medical personnel and engineers that we can best help Haitian families.

The Road to Hope builds self-sustaining communities through partnering with individuals and organizations in the U.S. and Haiti to learn from each other and build mutually supportive relationships.

We support organizations that share our goals of building self-sustaining communities that directly affect the lives of children. Our vision is a Haiti where children can grow up strong and healthy, and free from the trauma of abandonment.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The Road to Hope first drew the attention of the community during the devastating earthquake of 2010. Our initial challenge was to find a way to assist in the rescue of the dozens of children living in the rubble of orphanages and get them to the safe, loving arms of their adoptive parents around the world.  It was a completely unexpected situation for an organization with very long-term goals, to be faced with an immediate crisis. Through these trying weeks we learned so very much about the compassion, generosity and energy right here in our Colorado community. The support we received was overwhelming and filled us with optimism for what we might be able to accomplish in the years ahead.

As we began to focus on our long-range goals, our initial challenge was becoming connected with and forming a true partnership with local leadership in Haiti. In order to be effective and responsible stewards of our donor’s dollars and their trust, we first had to establish working relationships in the Haiti. Through local and national relationships here in the U.S., we have been so fortunate to have found outstanding Haitian partners. They ensure that we are constantly guided by the needs and priorities of our beneficiaries.  Working with them we can assure that our projects: are responsive to real need; employ local workers; are completed on time and on budget; and that we have a strong sense of what the “next steps” will look like.

Our most consistent, on-going challenge, is to ensure that we are communicating effectively with our U.S. donors.  Our work relies on the generosity and vision of folks here at home who share our understanding of what can be accomplished.  We are so very proud of our work building sustainable solutions in Haiti but we are equally proud of the impact that we have had on young people right here in our own back yard.  The American students who have traveled with us, organized campaigns, served as part of our Student Advisory Board, worked as summer interns, have all had a huge impact on The Road to Hope.  They have each displayed incredible personal growth and the awareness of how great an impact one determined person can have on the world around them. We are challenged, every day, to tell their stories, as well as the stories of children in Haiti who now have access to education, nutritional support, clean water, musical instruction and an opportunity to better their lives.

Please tell us about The Road to Hope.
The Road to Hope’s mission is to build self-sustaining communities through partnering with individuals and organizations in the U.S. and Haiti to learn from each other and build mutually supportive relationships. The organization provides wrap around services – community enrichment and development, water and sanitation, primary education, and health services to two rural communities in Haiti, Nordette and Mathone. Additionally, believing that community development isn’t just about bricks and mortar but also includes nourishing a rich cultural heritage, the organization hosts two thriving youth orchestras in Haiti. We recognize that, in order to make a lasting improvement in thelives of those in need, our commitment must be tremendous and we must involveHaitians in every phase of planning and implementation. Our efforts to lift up communities and children must include a true partnership with local leadership. It is through the intimate participation of local clergy, teachers, medical personnel and engineers that we can best ensure a bright future. The organization’s 2018 goals include: Maintain the current level of services at schools in Nordette and Mathone, including teachers salaries, lunch program and tuition; complete a sustainable water source for the community of Nordette; build and develop permanent sanitation solutions in Nordette and Mathone (currently in Nordette the composting toilets utilize a structure similar to a port-a-potty. Mathone does not currently utilize a composting system); repair physical structures as needed; determine health needs in Nordette through community driven assessment; begin to develop Haitian student to teacher mentorship program for the Haiti Youth Orchestra.

ENRICHING & BUILDING COMMUNITIES
When we strengthen communities, we strengthen individuals. The Road to Hope invests in strong local communities – our schools in Mathone and Nordette include community centers. We also believe in bridging the distance between communities globally, which is why we partner with communities throughout the U.S. and Haiti to provide in-person and digital cultural experiences and outreach for students, community leaders, musicians and other interested parties.

INVEST IN COMMUNITIES

FOOD & AGRICULTURE
Haiti is ranked 77 out of 79 in the 2012 Global Hunger Index and suffers from a dramatic income gap and an estimated 3.8 million Haitians, or 38 percent of the population, is food insecure. In addition to providing daily meals to the students in our schools, The Road to Hope has significant interest in sustainable agriculture development in the communities where we work. In both Mathone and Nordette, we’ve purchased land for agricultural growth. We anticipate building and providing technical support for a farming operation within the next year.

INVEST IN SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE

EDUCATION
The majority of Haitians lack access to quality education. Primary school enrollment is roughly 85% and the average Haitian, age 25 years or older, has less than five years of schooling. Additionally, school fees can be prohibitively expensive for low-income families. For these reasons, education is at the heart of everything we do at The Road to Hope. We partner with schools in the U.S. and Haiti to provide cultural experiences for students. Our teams in Haiti and the U.S. have partnered together to build and improve schools in Mathone and Nordette, Haiti.

In Mathone, in addition to a school, we’ve built a kitchen, a well, and a basketball court. We provide supplies, uniforms, and hot lunches for 160 students on a daily basis and employ teachers, a principal, and staff for the school. In Nordette, the school includes three buildings with nine classrooms, a cafeteria, a kitchen, and a multi-purpose community room. We employ a full staff of teachers, a principal, and cooks for over 150 children and provide a daily hot meal for teachers, staff, and students. We also partner with schools in the U.S., like Colorado Academy, to provide cultural experiences for students.

INVEST IN EDUCATION

MUSIC & THE ARTS: HAITI YOUTH ORCHESTRA
Research shows that regardless of socioeconomic status or school district, students (3rd graders) who participate in high-quality music programs score higher on reading and spelling tests. Founded by then 12 year old Zach Harris in partnership with the wonderful community of Mirebalais, the Haiti Youth Orchestra (HYO) provides the rare opportunity to the youth of Haiti to learn to play musical instruments. The Orchestra includes 80 members of the Mirebalais community. In 2017 HYO expanded to a second location in St. Martin.

INVEST IN MUSIC & THE ARTS

CLEAN WATER
Clean water and good sanitation are the basis of good health in any community. Less than half of Haitians in rural areas (like the communities The Road to Hope works) have access to clean water. Additionally, just 24% of all Haitians have access to a toilet. These conditions spread diseases, like cholera.

In both Nordette and Mathone we are working toward long-term sustainable sanitation solutions to serve the schools and communities. We have partnered with, S.O.I.L. Haiti, a Haitian owned non profit, to install composting toilets and educate the community regarding proper sanitation. We hope to install composting toilets in Mathone within the next year.

INVEST IN CLEAN WATER

HEALTH CARE
The country of Haiti reports some of the world’s worst health indicators. While Haiti has struggled with poor health outcomes for generations, the health system was further debilitated by the 2010 earthquake, which demolished 50 health centers, part of Haiti’s primary teaching hospital, and the Ministry of Health. There is just one hospital bed for every 10,000 people in Haiti, good health care is hard to find. The Road to Hope is currently assessing the medical needs of both communities and working with local health care NGO’s to determine how and if we can be of assistance.

Pricing:

  • In-country lodging, meals, transportation, translators and administrative fees: $2000 (shared rooms at all hotels, private rooms are an additional cost, upon availability and request) Flights: Approx. $800 – $1200 Insurance and Global Rescue: $200+, Apply for Global Rescue (you need to get travel insurance, medical and security evacuation) Background Check: $20 Entry Fee: $10

Contact Info:

  • Address: 1031 33rd Street, Denver, CO. 80205
  • Website: www.theroadtohope.org
  • Phone: 720 739-0236
  • Email: info@theroadtohope.org

Getting in touch: VoyageDenver is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Mickie Edwards

    August 13, 2019 at 3:31 pm

    Powerful article! Concise and well written!

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