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Giving peace a face in Haiti:
Annalisa shares her story in the United States as a witness during the Annual Campaign

Cecilia Tresoldi

Donor Relations Officer

This year, the AVSI-USA team wanted to give our friends and their communities a glimpse into our work and break down the distance we often feel between our lives and those we work for who live in some of the most challenging places around the world. Annalisa Costanzo, Program Manager in Haiti, accepted our invitation to join us and share her witness on our Annual Campaign: Give Peace a Face. Friends in Miami, Chicago, Denver, and Washington, DC, opened their homes and hearts to listen to Annalisa's dramatic and personal story of giving peace a face, AVSI's work in Haiti, and the need for more donor support.

My time with Annalisa was especially meaningful, not only because I found a new friend but also because I gained a new appreciation for my colleagues in Haiti and how they personify peace on this Caribbean island. Getting to know Annalisa, her daily routine, and her relationship with her coworkers, I could envision this beautiful yet struggling island: a place where people have to cross trash-filled streets and are regularly threatened by gang violence, and also a land with so much potential, where individuals still get up every day, dress with dignity, and fight to turn their lives around and, on occasion, dance to the beat of the drum, celebrating the gift of life.  

I now see on a different level how AVSI staff can transform a space into a place of hope and human dignity, no matter the context. This is done for the beneficiaries and the local staff residing in our target communities. In Haiti, these staff are empowered to coordinate street cleanings, educational activities for children, and focus groups to determine unaddressed needs. They accompany their communities physically with immediate relief and emotionally, reminding their neighbors that someone does care.  

Annalisa described AVSI’s mission in Haiti through this little story: 

"Arriving in the bidonville of Cité Soleil, the mothers of the children thank us for being there every day, by their side, without abandoning them. These people ask us not to be forgotten but to be accompanied in rebuilding their lives. Some time ago, I was heading to our educational center in the heart of Cité Soleil with some colleagues to open the center. From a distance, I saw five of our children spending time with some teenagers cleaning their guns. Instinctively, I thought trying to pull the kids away from the streets would be tough that day. However, before I could realize it, these five children, started running towards us, shouting our names. They held tightly to my colleague, and we opened the center together. It's impressive how these children, and everyone else, excitedly await us with hope and gratitude as we offer a real alternative to the violence that dominates the streets of Haiti."

The fundraising events Annalisa and I participated in were also a fantastic opportunity to meet volunteers and their communities around the US and listen to what moved them. One of our volunteers told me: “When I heard about the conflict in the Middle East, I felt tired. We were still so worried for Ukraine, and yet again, the news of a new war filled the newspapers. I felt so hopeless. However, when you sent me AVSI’s Annual Campaign flyer, and I read the title, it gave me hope because I realized that people are working for peace. I, too, can do something to bring peace to the world by getting involved with AVSI and doing something as little as donating. That’s why I decided to invite you to Chicago, to get to know you and better understand what you do.” Her words, in addition to the care of the family that hosted us in Chicago, the deep attention and many questions of the audience at the end of our presentation, and the joy of the children selling crafts to raise donations reminded me that we all, in different ways, can honestly give peace a face. 

Interested in learning more about Avsi's work in Haiti?