Name: Joshua Garties
Board position: Director of Development & Communications
Occupation: Master’s of Public Administration Student, George Washington University
When and how did you get involved with YSI?
Zachary Lawrence, the Vice President of Operations, and I were in undergrad together at Knox College. He contacted me about a year ago to ask if I would be interested in helping the organization grow. My first major project was redesigning the website. I now oversee our external communications (like this blog!) and promote our major fundraising campaigns (like this one!).
How many times have you visited Haiti/How much time have you spent in Haiti?
I just got back from my first expedition.
Why are you passionate about YSI in particular?
YourStory has the unique capability to make a difference in Léogâne. Haiti is a difficult place for large international organizations to operate, as demonstrated by the Red Cross’s high-profile failures there. Two of our three co-founders are Haitian which, combined with the focused scope of our work, allows us to deliver effective aid to the community with low overhead. I think you would be hard-pressed to find another organization that could come to Léogâne and do the same amount of good that we do with every dollar.
What is your favorite memory from your trip(s) to Haiti?
One morning, Theodore Choi and I visited the home of an elderly woman who lives alone to help her walk to our clinic for her appointment. After greeting us, she disappeared inside her house for several minutes while we stood outside, perplexed. When she emerged, she was wearing her Sunday best--bright clothes that looked immaculate, even brand new. She immediately set off on a brisk march down the trail leading to our clinic. She took a few brief pauses to catch her breath along the way, but declined our offers to help her walk. She made it to her appointment all on her own. It is easy to look at someone and assume you know how to help them, but these assumptions can blind us to a person’s actual needs. We thought this woman needed help walking to the clinic, but all she really needed was someone to let her know when it was time to leave the house.
What is your biggest take away from the experiences that you have had with YSI?
I am awed by the resilience of the Léogâne community. They endure in difficult conditions that most people the U.S. will never experience. We know that we cannot come to Léogâne and help them overcome every challenge they face, but if our programs can make their lives just a little bit easier, they will be more able to build a better future for themselves.
What is something that you think others should know about either YSI or Haiti? What makes it so special to you and/or why is it important?
When I describe YourStory to people, many of them instinctively categorize us as a “voluntourism” organization, a rightfully maligned type of charity that serves volunteers’ egos more than it serves the communities to which they travel. Our work, however, is much different than what these organizations do. We never use a volunteer to do a job when we can hire a Haitian. We have an experienced team of local translators who help those of us who cannot speak Haitian Creole interact meaningfully with the community. Our Advocates gain valuable personal and professional experience while providing services the community would not otherwise receive. YourStory was born in Léogâne. We have constructed a permanent facility there, and as long as this organization exists, we will continue to work there.