How to support Haitians in unstable times

Many of you have likely read news about recent political turmoil in Haiti. This leaves some people feeling helpless when thinking about what can be done to support the Haitian people during these times. Over the last several weeks, Nerds Abroad has stayed in contract with partner organizations and contacts on the ground to make sure everyone is okay – but it’s got us thinking about what we can be doing to help even during these tough times.

In developing countries, politics or weather can very quickly escalate issues within communities or an entire country; exponentially increasing the effect of the current issues in the country. It’s common practice to pull out ex-pats living in-country to safer locations during these times, which can slow to halt progress being done. We’ve been thinking about how we can develop programs that will be less impacted by these changes and have focused on how much programming we can put into the hands of Haitians. We were also looking to use ideas based in BOM (business as mission) to look at using economic development to help bring a bigger impact to the communities where we work. Though a few months of research, we have decided to create a program where transitional youth coming out of orphanages would be selling subsidized Android tablets to their community to be used as a tool of economic development and education.

Throwback to our first Haiti trip with Ncompass in 2015.

How does this help?

Android tablets are very popular around the globe for their abilities and portability. From our experiences, Haitians love tablets too! We have diligently researched and found that there is indeed demand for this device, but only one company based in Haiti that sells tablets – all their materials are in English and tablets cost at least $120USD each. How can we introduce more tablets to the market in a way that supports the community? Our initial program scope is the following:

  • Research demand and culturally appropriate pricing for tablets (ongoing). We have asked our trusted Haitian partners to research a price that gives people a buy-in to getting a tablet, but is not so expensive that it’s taking away from basic necessities. We found that ~$35-$40 is an appropriate price, and is much cheaper than the $120 that it would cost otherwise to get a tablet in Haiti from an in-country outlet.
  • Identify a tablet supplier (not yet complete). Given there are changes in import/export at the moment in the US, prices in flux and we are still in the process of finding a supplier. We are looking heavily at East Asian companies as we have experience going about business in China and Japan. Tablets are going to cost ~$70-$80 each, including $10 commission made by the sales person.
  • Generate funds to cover the subsidy cost (ongoing). We see that there will be about a $40 difference in the price of tablet sales and the cost of the tablet, our organization will cover this cost. This does not seem like sound business at first, but it will help kick-start a new sector of the economy in many areas in Haiti where it doesn’t exist as of now. This is where you can come in – your donations to this program will help make this happen.
  • Prepare an Android image for consumer use, and another for educational use (coming soon). Our board President is an experienced developer who will make an Android image that is custom-made for Haitians based on inputs from my own studies, interviews with Haitians, and our non-profit partners. There will also be an education-oriented version as well.
  • Deliver tablets down with US-based teams as a pilot program (coming soon). We are connected with at least 3 organizations who frequently visit Haiti and can get enough tablets in the country to perform a pilot program. Our goal is to send down 40 complete tablets to start. This may take some time to get all the tablets into the country, but we have found it is the most secure way to deliver hardware.
  • Our Haitian partners will deploy the tablets and collect data (coming soon). We are focusing on students transitioning out of orphanages to find work in this new career field. These previous students will perform sales duties and customer service of the tablets. 4 individuals have been identified through our trusted contacts and will be given 9 tablets each to sell. Once they have sold 9, they will sponsor 1 student in the home where they used to live as an in-country sponsor of their education. This student will be given the educational-based tablet. Each transitioning Haitian selling the tablets will make $10 per tablet!
  • Iterate, iterate, iterate! We realize there are lots of ways this program could go wrong, but so many ways it could go right. There will be lots of contact on all fronts in this process, lots of documentation, and as much involvement as possible from our end.

There is still some refinement that needs to happen, of course, but these are our initial thoughts. We are fortunate enough to have the funds to be able to subsidize these costs, but we are to scale and grow, we will look to fund raising.

How can I be involved?

If you wish to be a partner in this program, consider donating your time, talent, or treasure to us! Contact us here or make a secure donation online though PayPal (no account needed.) We are mostly looking for funds to expand the program from the pilot into the future. Over time, we hope a miniature economy will begin to grow and there will be less of a need on us to subsidize the sales.

We will post updates here once we have our first round of conclusions from our pilot program! Stay tuned!