The day after the one year anniversary of the earthquake my colleague, Marisa , and I rode up the hill to the Hotel Montana to meet Internews’ staff. The Hotel Montana, previously one of the nicest hotels in Port-au-Prince had collapsed during the earthquake, killing and injuring several people inside. When we arrived the main part of the hotel had been completely destroyed, although most of the rubble cleared in the past year.
A downstairs portion, including a conference room, remained in tact. For the week of the one-year anniversary of the earthquake, Internews set up a temporary journalist station in this conference room where both local and international journalists could come to learn, write, and post their stories. “Half of the time journalists spend in this country is just working out logistics – finding power, internet, etc,” said Phillip Allouard, Internews’ Haiti Country Director. Each day, they brought in experts from the country about different topics to present to the journalist present. They covered topics like the cholera outbreak and the reconstruction efforts in the country.
Internews’ mission is to empower local media worldwide to give people the news and information they need, the ability to connect, and the means to make their voices heard.. Their first program, ENDK, produces a 15-20 minute informational radio program six days a week to provide Haitians with information they need on topics like where they can access health care, employment opportunities, and disease prevention and treatment. This program is currently run on about 40 community radio stations throughout the country. As evidence of their reach, a recent study of the program’s target areas found that 100% of people surveyed had not only heard the program, but could cite specific examples of useful information they had gained from listening.
Internews works hard to make sure that the information they’re providing is what Haitians actually want to hear. They’ve created a research unit that has grown to almost 20 employees in the past several months. The research unit originated to identify and track the information needs of the communities they serve. They have found that across the board – from the time of the earthquake to now – people want health-related information. Internews has responded with information about where people can access clinics, what symptoms indicate illnesses like cholera, malaria, and typhoid, and what people can do to prevent illness. Their research has become so respected that other organizations, including government officials and other non-profit organizations, have begun paying for access to the information. One long-term possibility is to turn this research unit into an information consulting business run by Haitians even after Internews is no longer involved.
Jennifer Mandel, Deputy Country Director, believes that one of the biggest impacts Internews will have on the country is the lasting training and capacity building they have been carrying out throughout the past year. As funding for the radio program winds down, the journalists and researchers they’ve trained throughout the last year will remain in the country, continuing to provide high-quality research and reporting to rebuild Haiti in the future.
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