Don Snyder: 2014 Award Winner

Remarks on Receiving the Ted Lewis Award

Evening for Haiti

November 1, 2014

Nearly 11 years ago to the day, having been “convinced by my wife, Kit to come with her” I found myself reluctantly on my way to the home of a couple I had never met . . . the home of Drs. Warren & Gretchen Berggren.  A young Haitian priest, by the name of Kesner Gracia was staying with them and they were anxious for me and others, to meet them, and him.  I won’t bore you with the details of the evening, fascinating as it was, I will simply tell you that as we pulled out of the driveway that evening, I turned to Kit and said, “I’ve got to go to Haiti . . . I have no idea why . . . but I have to go”.  11 years later, I am still turning to Kit to say, “I’ve got to go to Haiti”!  Not much has changed, although occasionally I at least think I know why I’m going!

I feel extraordinarily blessed to have shared in the lives of our Haitian brothers and sisters over the last 11 years.  Each visit has reinforced the notion that while we live in different worlds and while there are cultural differences to be respected, our basic needs, our hopes and our dreams are much the same  . . . access to a quality education, access to basic health care, access to clean water & a secure food supply, the opportunity to hold a job and the opportunity to determine our own future, to name a few.

Here in Colorado I have been blessed to work with some of the finest people one can imagine.  People of the highest integrity and faith.  People willing to share their expertise and their time in the service of others.  This includes not only members of the board, but members of our staff, committee members, a wonderful group of volunteers and a dedicated group of donors.

I am honored and humbled to receive this award.  As many of you probably know, shortly after Ted was diagnosed with a terminal illness, he asked me to succeed him as the chair of the CHP board.  Being the new kid on the block, I was both surprised and a bit overwhelmed.  But I trusted in God and I trusted in Ted.  Ted was a visionary.  In fact, in his final board retreat, he asked us to watch a film called the “Power of Vision”.  The film explored the ideas around shifting our thinking to look at the future and how our vision would affect the future if we combined it with action.  The film also cautioned that holding on to old ideas might prevent us from seeing what would move us forward.

Having worked internationally all of my life, with much of that time spent in the developing world, I often find myself dismayed at the waste of well intended aid I see in the world of international development.  Organizations that get stuck in one place . . . organizations that impose their solutions (solutions seemingly developed in some sort of vacuum) on a local community . . . organizations that give lip service to the idea of listening and collaborating with local communities . . . organizations whose existence becomes more important than their mission.

The Colorado Haiti Project could have been one of those organizations, but for some remarkable people along the way.  In time, we made a conscious and at the time, a difficult choice not to get stuck in one place.  We made a conscious choice to stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in Haiti even when the politics and the security of the country were in chaos.  We made a conscious choice to seek out the agenda and vision of the local community and spend whatever time was needed on the ground to build the relationships and the trust, that is essential to engaging in meaningful dialogue focused on finding Haitian solutions to Haitian problems.

In time we have come to understand that HOW WE WORK is at least as important as WHAT WE DO.  This, in my view is what sets the Colorado Haiti Project apart.  I think Ted would be pleased.

My hope for the future is that we stay true to the idea of respectful collaboration, of listening and hearing what the local community articulates, that we take care of the relationships that have been built and cared for over the last 25 years and that we always find the time to be present, standing shoulder to shoulder in good faith with our Haitian brothers and sisters.  I am confident if we stay true to these ideals as the foundation for whatever the future holds, we will continue to be successful.

Before I close, I have a few words that I hope Pere Abiade will share with our Haitian partners on his return . . .

Bon swa tout moun.  Aswe a, m ap resevwa Ted Lewis Award of Excellence, jis tankou Madam Odette, ane pase a.  Kòm ou yo se kè ak nanm nan travay la nou te fè ansanm, mwen ta renmen dedye prim sa a ba ou.  Mwen fe sa a nan rekonesans, pou chak youn nan nou, ki te kontribye nan pwop fason avek kado yo Bondye bay chak nan nou, pou developman e sante nan kominote nou.  Mwen genyen anpil respe ak admirasyon pou nou.  Chak nan nou, nan fason pwop nou a, se yon enspirasyon pou mwen.  Sa a onè ki se bay mwen m ba ou.  Pase bon nuit e na we abyento si Dye vle.

Here’s the translation:

Good evening to all of you. Tonight I am recieving the Ted Lewis Award of Excellence, the same award which was given to Madam Odette last year.  As you are the heart and soul of the work we have done together, I would like to dedicate this award to you.  I do this in gratitude for each one of you who has contributed in your own unique way, with your own God given gifts, to the development and well being of your community.  I have tremendous respect and admiration for you. Each of you in your own way are an inspiration for me.  This honor which is given to me, I give to you.  Have a good evening and God willing, I will see you soon.

And to all of you here tonight, I again want to say, thank you so very much for this honor and thank each of you for your ongoing committment to this work . . . mesi, mesi anpil.

Wynn Walent