LAFAYETTE, Colo. (CBS4) – The nonprofit Locally Haiti says the earthquake last week is the latest challenge for a nation with a deep history of struggles rooting from its geography and systemic failures. But the group based in Colorado has spent three decades trying to break through those barriers by focusing on one community on the island and limiting the involvement of large institutions to reach those most in need.

(credit: Locally Haiti)

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“We know enough to know it’s the leaders who know their community best so we really follow their lead and do everything we can to build bridges to resources for those folks,” said Wynn Walent, the executive director of Locally Haiti. “So we’re going to be helping to meet short-term needs immediately, helping to put all the generosity that we’ve seen from Colorado and across the country into the hands of local folks.”

For more than 30 years, the nonprofit has focused on the community of Petit-Trou-de-Nippes, located 95 miles from the capital of Haiti. Their community development projects don’t often lead to building shelters but the people on the ground have told them that is their immediate need. Recent work includes a school that survived the recent earthquake and served as a place for families to stay who lost their homes.

“If we learn from history and we get resources and support into the hands of the local community-based institutions, it can really make a difference than the last,” he told CBS4 on Tuesday.

(credit: Locally Haiti)

Walent knows the frustration for all when money donated for the 2010 earthquake didn’t end up helping those on the ground. He says it is part of the unique set of circumstances that plague this nation. Geographically, it is on a fault line and in the constant path of potential hurricanes. Weak institutions throughout its history and an international aid structure that prevents money from getting to communities only add to the situation.

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“Our model is different, our response can be different, and what makes it different is our commitment to getting resources directly into the hands of local people,” he said.

While their work may start with shelters because of this most recent earthquake, their approach will lead them to finding local engineers to look at structural systems in that community. Similar to what they did in 2016 after Hurricane Matthew, planting crops to avoid a food shortage but ultimately helping farmers improve their techniques and irrigation systems beyond the natural disaster.

“We’re going to be trying to replicate that type of success with this response and it’s through local institutions that that can happen,” Walent said.

(credit: Locally Haiti)

Started by three Episcopal priests as the Colorado Haiti Project, the passion that remains in their team years later is built on people from Colorado visiting Haiti and staying connected with those they meet to understand the unique needs of the community they serve.

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To support Locally Haiti, visit their website:  https://www.locallyhaiti.org/