Heifer Haiti's Tools for Responding to COVID-19: Foresight, Adaptation and Humanity

By Heifer International

April 28, 2020

Last Updated: April 29, 2020

Photo by Lacey West

In This Article

  • The COVID-19 epidemic is affecting Heifer International's work all over the world.
  • In Haiti, the staff began preparing well before the first case was reported nationally.
  • One of the priorities has been providing accurate information to project participants about the virus.
  • Safety measures include good hand hygiene, avoiding gatherings of more than five people and respecting physical distance.

The ability to adapt to change is key for any individual or institution wanting to grow and develop. Most of the time, change scares us because it forces us to jump into what our minds might consider a void. When we reach these crossroads, hope is a fundamental element. Well thought out strategies, along with the values that define us, can be a winning combination. It is on these pillars that Heifer Haiti rests its actions, particularly in the context of COVID-19.

Prior to the official announcement of the first positive COVID-19 patient in neighboring Dominican Republic, Heifer Haiti leaders started reflecting on and discussing the adoption of new strategies so the organization could prepare for contingencies. Virtual meetings via Zoom were already a habit within the team. In fact, Zoom meetings are a preferred communication method, as well as WhatsApp groups, to stay in close contact with the offices based in the regions.

A woman walks to a gathering at Lake Verger in 2017. At this moment, Heifer Haiti is urging project participants to avoid gatherings of more than five people. Photo by Lacey West.

When the first case of the virus was officially reported in Haiti, we were ready. However, field activities, distribution and training posed additional challenges. Those areas were reviewed and adapted to the new situation, but the reaction of the rural population was uncertain because of the lack of information about the dangers of COVID-19 and the precautions that need to be taken.

The Heifer Haiti team was concerned their arrival in the field with masks and gloves would cause a wave of misunderstanding. Faced with this new challenge, the team took a step back to take a better jump forward. First, the team worked on the design and production of awareness spots, which were distributed to our grassroots partner organizations through social networks. These organizations, which represent a large part of the territory, shared information with members of their community who did not have access to these technologies. The effort continued with local committees, the gateway to the communities and Heifer Haiti's active partners, especially during the distributions.

New safety measures were established in partnership with the committees. Safety measures include good hand hygiene, avoiding gatherings of more than five people and respecting physical distance.

Passing on the Gift ceremonies also adapted to the new situation. In the spirit of passing on livestock while following the new safety measure, animals were given to the members of the local committees, who gave them separately to recipient families.

Belvius Cadet works in his field in Solon. Photo by Lacey West.

Modeling the safety precautions for everyone involved, Heifer Haiti team members wore masks and gloves not only for their own protection but to serve as an example to the communities who believe in their words and actions.

Although no case of COVID-19 has been officially identified in the departments where the team works, Heifer Haiti's leadership demonstrates its ability to predict and adapt to the curveballs that life sends it. The pandemic puts us to the test once again, and Heifer Haiti proves more than ever its adherence to the human values conveyed by our organization. It is through these difficulties we are able to find new ways to keep alive the spirit of sharing and caring while staying safe.

Written by Claire Pressoir, Haiti communications officer