News & Events

Haiti fund in Boston raises $2 million

Posted by James F. Smith February 10, 2010 11:13 AM
From Caribbean
to Boston

Right after the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti, Boston builder Jim Ansara and his wife Karen Ansara pledged $1 million to help Haitians recover and rebuild. And they challenged the people of Boston and beyond to match that amount.

Today, the Boston Foundation said it has matched that original $1 million from the Ansaras — passing the $2 million goal. And the organizers say they aren’t stopping there.

A gift of $100,000 from Wilmer Ruperti, head of a Venezuelan trading and shipping company, put the Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Fund over the $1 million mark in matching funds.

The milestone was announced at an event at the Boston Foundation featuring Haitian music, artwork and cuisine, and attended by a Haitian community leaders as well as Boston-area philanthropists.

Author Tracy Kidder was slated to deliver the keynote address. Kidder is the author of "Mountains Beyond Mountains," the 2003 book about Dr. Paul Farmer, who co-founded Boston-based Partners in Health and has worked in Haiti for more than a quarter of a century.

Jim Ansara, who built the Shawmut Design and Construction Co. into a national force in the industry, had been working for months with Dr. David Walton of Brigham and Women’s Hospital to plan a major new Partners in Health hospital in Haiti.

When the quake hit, Walton flew immediately to Haiti to help treat victims. Ansara joined Walton two days later, and they worked shoulder to shoulder to get the main hospital in Port-au-Prince functioning again over the next 12 days.

Walton has produced a powerful video on his experiences in Haiti, with his own heart-rending photos. He helped treat about 800 patients on his first day in Port-au-Prince as part of a Partners in Health team.

Meanwhile, Karen Ansara was also hard at work in Boston, leaning on others to meet the Ansaras’ $1 million challenge. The new fund the Ansaras created is administered through the Boston Foundation, as is the 10-year-old Ansara Family Fund, which the Ansaras created with part of the earnings from Shawmut.

Paul Grogan, president of the Boston Foundation, said "the tremendous result has exceeded our wildest dreams, and given us the courage to continue to grow the fund."

The goal for the fund is to support long-term reconstruction and job-creation, and also to support the Haitian-American community in Boston — the third-largest in the United States– as it copes with the immense impact of the quake.

The Ansaras have insisted that Haiitian community leaders in Boston are closely involved in deciding how the money is used and in shaping the programs.