Heights nonprofit bolsters Haitian student's dream
For Claryce Medard, international development is more than a possible career path or exercise in compassion. It’s personal.
Even before the 2010 earthquake that devastated parts of her native Haiti, Medard witnessed aid efforts that had little impact. So when she learned about International Partners in Mission (IPM), based in Cleveland Heights, she wanted to see what set it apart.
In August, Medard, 22, completed a six-week internship with IPM, a nonprofit founded nearly 40 years ago to provide seed funding, training and technical support to small, community-based programs in more than 20 countries. Called Project Partners, the agency works in Latin America and the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa, and south Asia, focusing on women, children and youth. IPM also offers Immersion Experiences—short-term travel for participants from developed countries to visit partners and experience their way of life.
Medard was drawn to Cleveland during a retreat last October at Wheaton College, where she is majoring in computer science. She listened as Lilah Zautner of Neighborhood Progress Inc. described community efforts to reclaim vacant lots in Cleveland as farms, vineyards and parks. With dreams of starting her own nonprofit, Medard thought Cleveland would be a good training ground. She learned about the Porter Cleveland Fellowship, which funds internships, and about IPM. Both programs accepted her.
Her tasks included obtaining feedback from Immersion participants, updating resource materials and translating the Project Partners’ annual report from Spanish to English.
She admires the respect for partners’ autonomy. “IPM doesn’t impose [its own] agenda on projects. Partners do their own projects based on what’s needed in their community.”
Medard believes that the insight and understanding forged during an Immersion Experience would contribute to more enduring results. “You learn about the people, their culture and country. You immerse yourself in someone else’s reality and see how they’re trying to develop their community.”
Medard was attending an international secondary school in Costa Rica when she learned of the Haitian earthquake. For one week, she tried to get through to her family in Port-au-Prince. One day, after chemistry class, she reached her sister, who assured her that everyone was all right.
Obtaining permanent housing, however, has been a challenge. The family has moved around and will soon occupy a house outside Port-au-Prince.
They are luckier than many. Despite several billion dollars in aid, housing reconstruction in Haiti has barely begun, and hundreds of thousands of people are still in camps, The New York Times reported earlier this year.
After graduation next spring, Medard would like to earn a master’s degree in the U.S. and then work in health informatics, a field that integrates computers with health care. After earning enough to support her family, she plans to return to Haiti.
She wants to apply lessons from IPM and previous volunteer work in Port-au-Prince with the French medical organization Médecin du Monde to curb violence and stop sexually transmitted diseases. “I want to teach young people some skills or help them develop their own talents. And I want to teach them to use technology for economic development.”
For more information about IPM, visit their website at www.ipmconnect.org.
Carol Pearson is a freelance writer and a volunteer with IPM.