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Les Cayes, Haiti

Cambridge is in the process of developing a sister city relationship with Les Cayes, Haiti. The January 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti had a very real impact on Cambridge, where many people from Haiti and of Haitian descent live and work. On January 11, 2010 – by coincidence, the eve of the earthquake – the Cambridge City Council adopted Policy Order 0-5: “That the City Manager appoint a committee to pursue the possibility of establishing a sister city relationship in Haiti.” The Peace Commission developed a proposal to establish a Cambridge-Haiti Sister City Committee (the “Committee”) in response to the order. The Committee was established to develop and implement a strategy to build an assets-based, sustainable, long-term, sister city relationship between Cambridge and an appropriate city in Haiti. That Committee was appointed by the City Manager in January 2011 and began working with the Peace Commission.

During its initial meetings, the Committee identified three areas of potential support and collaboration with a sister city in Haiti:

  • Public Health: short- and long-term support for public health initiatives, infrastructure and related ongoing efforts;
  • Education and Youth: support for local efforts in Haiti, through schools and the arts, including materials, sponsorships and exchanges; and
  • Infrastructure and the Environment: providing expertise and support to enhance and create public infrastructure and help reverse environmental degradation in and around the city and the surrounding area due to deforestation.

Over the course of two years, the Cambridge-Haiti Sister City Committee met regularly to discuss the various aspects of the proposed sister city relationship. Through that work, the Committee identified the City of Les Cayes as the most appropriate community based on specific criteria and the best practices of other initiatives. The Committee recognized that it needed to learn more about the situation, possibilities, and challenges of working in Haiti, and invited academics, representatives of U.S. and Haiti-based nonprofit organizations, and medical personnel working in Haiti to brief the Committee on their efforts and experiences. The committee consulted with these professionals to gain perspective on a broad number of issues.

These consultations led to a partnership with W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which supported the Cambridge-Haiti Sister City Committee’s initial fact-finding delegation to Haiti from May 23 through May 31, 2013. The delegation undertook a listening tour, spending a week in Les Cayes. The focus of the trip was to meet with stakeholders, evaluate facilities, and begin the process of building relationships. After the delegation, the Committee submitted its report to the City Manager, and on May 5, 2014, the City Council approved the Committee’s recommendation that the City of Cambridge proceed to establish a relationship with Les Cayes.

Over the next two years, the Committee organized two more fact-finding delegations that traveled to Haiti to understand the needs of the community, build relationships, and explore possible partnerships and projects in three areas. Under the auspices of the Peace Commission, City of Cambridge and Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) staff organized and led comprehensive "listening tours" with local stakeholders in Haiti during each visit. Each visit was an intensive, productive week that left the team with positive impressions of Les Cayes and the potential for doing sustainable work in Haiti, in collaboration with the City of Cambridge and other Boston-area partners.

The Cambridge-Les Cayes Sister City Project officially launched its programming in June 2016, with a multidisciplinary training delegation from Cambridge spending five days in Les Cayes, Haiti. Building on the work of the three previous delegations and intensive planning over the last year, this was a fruitful and very productive effort and strengthened the relationship between the two communities. The delegation was a collaborative effort of City of Cambridge staff, ProEMS paramedics, and CHA clinicians. This delegation’s core activities were three intensive days of training in emergency medicine, provided to nurses, doctors, and medical students at the main public hospital in Les Cayes, Hôpital Conception Immaculée (Immaculate Conception Hospital). After an orientation meeting with the medical director and other staff leadership, the delegation conducted ten well-received trainings in emergency medicine with doctors, nurses, medical students, and ambulance drivers – with more than 100 attendees in total. In addition, the delegation brought donated medical and dental supplies to the hospital that are often difficult to obtain in Haiti.

A second multidisciplinary training delegation traveled to Les Cayes in July 2017, providing requested training in emergency medicine to dozens of staff over the course of four days at both Hôpital Conception Immaculée and Hôpital OFATMA. This delegation again included paramedics, nurses, doctors, and City of Cambridge staff, building on the work of the four previous delegations. As of 2021, the effort continues to support an official and sustainable relationship between the two cities, although the natural disasters and political situation of recent years has meant that sister city delegations have not been able to travel to Les Cayes.

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