FANM, Haitian Women of Miami celebrates 21 years of helping community

How many times have you read about a university or well-known institution receiving a major gift for a new library or hospital wing?

How nice it would be if community-based organizations were so blessed. Working in shoebox offices on shoestring budgets, we bargain with God. We don’t need ten million — a million, or half that, will do.

My mother, Angelina, has a saying: Lajan al kay lajan — money goes to money. Although she didn’t receive an education in Haiti— her parents sent the boys to school while she and her sister learned to cook and sew — how right she is. It’s not that I wish big organizations would receive less; especially my alma maters Miami-Dade College and Florida International University. It’s just that grassroots, community-based agencies must survive on so little, no matter how worthy the mission or how vital the services.

For us, my mother has another saying: Lespwa fe viv. Hope encourages us to live.

As FANM celebrates its 21-year anniversary, it is hope that moves us forward in the face of deep budget and funding cuts; hope that grounds and gives us the courage to fight for the less fortunate, the disenfranchised and voiceless. Every year, visitors come to us from around the world. After spending a day or two at the center, they’re awed by its ability to respond to such a kaleidoscope of needs, one as urgent as the next. When they hear our budget, their jaws drop through the floor.

Since transitioning to a community-based organization in 2000, FANM has provided thousands of families with counseling, domestic violence intervention and prevention, access to health and after-school programs, adult literacy and computer training, Immigration advocacy and citizenship services, and community economic development.

Nanie (not her real name) summarizes the essence of FANM’s work: “I have two sons in college right now. I was involved with DCF. Without FANM, they would be in jail by now. I would probably be dead already. FANM saved my family, my life.”

We outsource some programs due to lack of space, and have many more people on our waiting list. We dream of a building to house these programs, and a little space for inner-city children to play safely when they’ve finished their homework. We dream of being financially sustainable.

As grant funds dry up, grassroots organizations have to be that much more creative in finding alternative sources of revenue.

Our chances to receive a major gift for a building may be slim, but we keep our dreams alive. After all, it is the under-served communities that depend on our work and that of other grass-roots agencies. After all, Lespwa fe viv! Hope encourages us to live!Take a look at our activities coming up in 2013 to that end:

• On March 7 we will have our Dancing Under the Stars Gala fundraiser at 7 p.m. at the Little Haiti Cultural Center , 260 N.E. 59 Terrace, Miami. Tickets can be purchased at FANM and online:

• On March 8 (my birthday) we will have a birthday benefit for the Florida Immigrant Coalition and FANM. Please consider donating $50 to FANM. Proceeds will fund the campaign for comprehensive immigration reform that trailblazes a path to citizenship.

• On March 23,there will be a seminar on breast, cervical and colorectal cancer and HIV/AIDS prevention at the Center for Haitian Studies, 8260 N.E. 2nd Avenue. Haitian women have a high mortality rate from breast cancer because of late detection and lack of access to care. Forty percent of women in Little Haiti have never had a mammogram. The all-day conference and health fair will be hosted by FANM and partner organizations: The University of Miami South Florida Center For Reducing Cancer Disparities, Green Family Foundation, Haitian American Nurses’ Association, Health Foundation of South Florida, Susan G, Komen, Center for Haitian Studies, and the Children’s Trust. Scholarships are available courtesy of Health Foundation of South Florida, Green Family Foundation and the Children’s Trust.

Marleine Bastien is exeutive director of Haitian Women of Miami, Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami, Inc.

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