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RBC Reaches out to Haiti

On January 12, 2010, Haiti suffered through a 7.0 magnitude earthquake, with devastating consequences. RBC Foundation provided significant funding to support Haiti in their relief and reconstruction efforts.

An interview with Shari Austin, Vice President of Corporate Citizenship, RBC

How has RBC supported Haiti?

RBC Foundation provided significant funding to support Haiti: $100,000 in emergency relief to the Canadian Red Cross, and another $1 million to Oxfam-Quebec and the One Drop Foundation for longer-term water infrastructure and water education programming (under our Blue Water Project).

What difference has RBC made in Haiti?

Our gift to the Red Cross was used to set up emergency shelters and drinking water supplies for some of the 1.5 million people left homeless after the earthquake in Port-au-Prince. Unfortunately, about 1 million of these people were still in tent “cities,” a year and a half later. Our gift to Oxfam-Quebec and the One Drop Foundation is being used to rebuild water infrastructure in Leogane, where more than 75 per cent of homes and buildings were destroyed. This includes providing simple, clean surroundings for wells to avoid contamination (and children and animals falling in!), building aqueducts for agriculture, and building water facilities that reduce water contamination by separating out water for various uses: drinking, washing, animal watering, agriculture, etc. Importantly, they are also training everyone on the use and maintenance of these facilities, and ensuring that responsibilities are clear, so that the improvements are sustainable.

In addition, RBC funds were also directed to the creation and delivery of a theatrical performance. This involves a production of One Drop Foundation, working with the Cirque de Soleil and a local theatre group in Haiti, delivered through 275 performances across the country. It teaches people about clean water, and about getting through the earthquake-related trauma. The signs of the earthquake are still everywhere in Haiti: crumbled buildings, disabled people, tent cities. The problems are mind-boggling in magnitude and complexity, but our funding is making real and visible differences in the lives of Haitians. And, it’s not only the money that is making an impact – the people we met were deeply touched that a company in Canada cares about their welfare and is trying to help.

Why did RBC choose to focus so much funding on Haiti when you don’t have a business presence there?

We generally do give significant emergency related gifts through the Canadian Red Cross when there are major disasters around the world, even if we do not have any business presence in that particular area. We feel strongly that this is an important humanitarian responsibility for large companies like ours. In the case of Haiti, we also decided to provide longer term water-related funding for a number of reasons: the devastation was so overwhelming and the ability of the country to cope with it was even less than it is ordinarily in a disaster. Also, our Blue Water Project partner One Drop Foundation was already setting up there in partnership with Oxfam when the disaster took place, so we had trusted partners ready and on the ground.