A Catalyst for Inter-American Soldarity and Opportunity: For Nearly 50 Years, the Pan American Development Foundation Has Assisted Millions of People in the Americas through Humanitarian Aid, Integral Development, and Civil Society Strengthening

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Several months after the deadly January 12, 2010 earthquake struck Haiti, engineer Yves Bellevue closely monitors a group of masons who are repairing a damaged home in Port-au-Prince's Delmas 32 neighborhood. They were recently trained to use techniques that meet international standards for repairing earthquake-damaged homes. Bellevue is one of 400 specially trained engineers who inspected more than 389,000 homes in the capital--the largest assessment ever conducted for a disaster of this size--as part of a USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and World Bank-funded program that is managed by the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) in partnership with Haiti's Ministry of Public Works (MTPTC). This effort is a key part of PADF's three "Rs" strategy in Haiti to Return people to safe homes, Rebuild neighborhoods, and Restore livelihoods.

PADF contracted Miyamoto International to train Haitian structural engineers under MTPTC management to inspect buildings and tag them using international standards: A red tag indicates a heavily damaged building that is unsafe; a yellow tag indicates a damaged building that can be used with repairs; a green tag means a building sale for occupancy.

Throughout the capital, inspectors found that 54 percent are sale, 26 percent need repairs, and 20 percent need to be demolished. The tagging program indicated that the priority should be to repair the more than 90,000 yellow-tagged homes. This is the fastest, least-expensive method to get hundreds of thousands of people out of displacement camps. Plus, the repairs are 300 percent stronger than before and make the houses safer from future quakes and hurricanes.

The 34-year-old Bellevue also knows that the massive project is building the capacity of masons, construction workers, and fellow engineers. "As a managing engineer, this has been a great opportunity for me," he says. "I'm able to learn and teach new techniques. It's so important for Haiti. Without this, we would not be able to rebuild the country."

These techniques and the repaired homes are helping to build a stronger Haiti.

Spreading the Vision

From Haiti to Colombia, from Bolivia and El Salvador to Grenada, Jamaica, and Saint Lucia in the Caribbean, the PADF has improved the lives of millions of people by responding to natural disasters and humanitarian crises. Its work focuses on integral development that creates new opportunities and on strengthening civil society to promote the values embodied in the Inter-American Democratic Charter. PADF is duly recognized for empowering local communities so they can better advocate for and address their own development needs in a sustainable way.

Established in 1962 as an affiliate of the Organization of American States (OAS), PADF was created through a unique cooperative agreement between the OAS and private enterprise to provide a specialized nongovernmental organization to assist the least advantaged people in Latin America and the Caribbean, in support of the Alliance for Progress initiated by President John F. Kennedy. When it created PADF, the OAS became the first international organization to create a specialized NGO affiliate. The United Nations, the US government, and others later used PADF as a model for establishing similar foundations.

The goal was to create a mechanism that could mobilize the private sector to assist the neediest people through productive employment in microenterprises, technical training, developing civil society, encouraging national entrepreneurship, and facilitating corporate social responsibility.

Over the past five decades, PADF has strengthened thousands of Latin American civil society groups by providing technical assistance, equipment, and training for institution-building and local fundraising. It has also given grants to expand activities benefiting millions of destitute people living in the Americas, especially in countries like Haiti, Honduras, Bolivia, Colombia, and throughout the Caribbean. …