The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
Innovative Vision, Practical Impact
October 3, 2012
Rose Anne Auguste bolsters health in Haiti
Originally published in the Summer/Fall 2012 issue of Rights Now
When you ask Martha Thompson, manager of UUSC’s Rights in Humanitarian Crises Program, what makes Rose Anne Auguste’s work unique, she responds: “How many mother-child health clinics have art studios attached to them?” Such innovation is a hallmark of Auguste’s work at the Association for the Promotion of Integral Family Healthcare (APROSIFA), a grassroots organization and UUSC partner in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
What good can art do for more than 100 youth in the impoverished neighborhood of Carrefour Feuilles? Through the creation of art, young people are processing the trauma they’ve experienced, learning about issues like climate change and gender equality, putting recycled materials to good use, and even generating income to support themselves by selling their work. And that’s not all. As Thompson explains, “The work that’s being done through this art workshop is really key, because the levels of trafficking and the cracks that young kids can fall into in Haiti are gaping wide. [Auguste’s] programs enable so many kids to change the way they see themselves — and it has protected them.” And some have found a calling; several of the young artists recently had their work featured in a large-scale exhibit at Haiti’s National Gallery.
As the founder, director, and visionary behind APROSIFA’s many health initiatives, Auguste has a particular talent for developing programs that provide practical solutions to several problems at once — programs that UUSC is proud to help APROSIFA make a reality. “Rose Anne is really responding creatively to the needs that she sees emerging in the community,” says Wendy Flick, manager of UUSC’s Haiti program.
One APROSIFA program addresses malnourishment in Carrefour Feuilles. While getting kids food that will keep them healthy is important, Auguste says, “We don’t just feed malnourished kids at this clinic; we have to increase the ability of the mothers to earn enough to feed their children.” UUSC has worked with Auguste on a nutrition program that rehabilitates malnourished kids over a period of up to six weeks while also providing mothers with nutrition education. At the same time, the program partners with Konbit Famn Saj, another local grassroots organization, to provide the women with food-preparation training, a kitchen to work in, and carts to sell their food for stable income.
One of the reasons that Auguste is so effective in her work is that she has been an integral part of the community that she is serving for the past 19 years. Thompson and Flick were introduced to Auguste after the earthquake, only to discover that Auguste already had experience with UUSC. Back in the ‘90s, UUSC helped fund the translation of Where There Is No Doctor into Haitian Creole. The book has been vital in enabling people to do comprehensive health work in Port-au-Prince and throughout Haiti.
Auguste has surrounded herself with a group of dedicated and passionate people at APROSIFA. “When I met her team for the first time,” Flick reflects, “I found out most of them have been there for the entire 19 years — and that’s even during periods of time when there were no salaries. The way that she has empowered and inspired her team says everything you need to know about her.” Together, they have created sustainable programs that are truly building a better future for families in Haiti.
Having acted as an advisor to Paul Farmer and Partners in Health, Auguste is known transnationally as a leader and defender of women’s health. “Rose Anne has always been a passionate activist,” Thompson shares.”She looks at everything from a rights perspective, and she recognizes that people’s health situations are rooted in inequality and lack of access to water, to jobs, to food.”
This perspective makes her a natural choice for the position of government minister of human rights, poverty, and hunger, to which she was appointed in mid-May. “She’s a practical visionary, so she’s not going to be content with a lot of vague policies about ending hunger,” says Thompson. Auguste’s down-to-earth approach and creativity will set her — and Haiti — up for success in this new position, in the same ways that they have at APROSIFA.