What started as an ambitious endeavor almost eight years ago for Judlau Contracting founder and CEO Tom Iovino now has a chance to have considerable impact on the devastation in Haiti.
In 2002 Iovino started The iF Foundation, formerly The Iovino Family Foundation as a way to give back. The foundation was to be a vehicle for donating money to a multitude of causes including higher education, hospitals, disease mitigation and other charities.
With a focus on making more of an impact where it had responsibility for the outcomes, The iF Foundation initially based its aid in clean water. A filtration plant in Haiti was created as well as water filters for cyanide in Bangladesh and drilling wells in Africa.
Eventually, the foundation chose a community in the north of Haiti due to its extreme poverty and its proximity to the United States and began providing aid for an orphanage, a battered women facility, a health clinic and a micro-lending bank but Iovino quickly realized that while it might have made the people in Haiti’s life a little better, it was not changing their living dynamic.
“We had to learn first hand what not to do,” he said. “We realized that the people of Haiti needed to take ownership of their lives and future and they needed to determine what should be done for the community.”
The foundation’s staff hired two people on the ground, Edlyne Cange and Jean Magnus Regis to engage the community on ideas for them to support themselves. Edlyne and Jean decide how they put the foundation’s funds to use in order to help the Haitian people. They borrow money from the foundation and pay back with no interest but ten percent must go to a community fund chosen by them.
“Our philosophy is that we want to do development work rather than charity work,” said Father James E. Byrum, Managing Director of The iF Foundation.
Currently, there are goat farms, an alcohol processing and soap manufacturing facility and fish farms, with 95 percent of all the projects funded by The iF Foundation.
“Their lives are completely changing and they are held accountable by our employees,” said Mr. Iovino. “The intent and result was to teach them and mentor them to perform what was required. It worked well; the community is working and is energized.”
Because the work done by The iF Foundation is expanding, it is looking to leverage its success and is currently in the process of developing into a more broadly known foundation. A website was recently built and an ongoing search to hire a development person lead by Father Byrum is also taking place. With these changes, The iF Foundation will be trying to raise money and to do even more. A person is also on the ground in Ghana replicating the Haiti project and Judlau personnel have been to Haiti twice to help them build the filtration structure.
Now that the earthquake has devastated Haiti, The iF Foundation has stepped in again in order to help the Haitian people by rallying to raise funds and creating an afternoon session at The St. Joseph of Dubre School in Port-au-Prince in order to provide education and a sense of normalcy to 22 displaced students and staff. The iF Foundation already supports the school financially and has provided additional funding to expand it. St. Joseph of Dubre is expecting to handle the students within the next week.
In addition, Judlau has contacted The American Road & Transportation Builders Association, a national lobbying group for contractors and engineers who in turn, has contacted officials in Washington. Judlau has suggested that construction workers with Haitians be mobilized to rebuild and the gifting of money to workers tax free so as to maximize the use of dollars. A task force assembled to help design and build from the bottom up including sanitation, water mains and roads as well as living facilities was also suggested.
“The endeavor, while overwhelming would engage the American and human spirit to accomplish something truly worthwhile,” Iovino said.
The iF Foundation will continue to look for ways to do even more; engaging other communities in the same process of creating jobs and wealth and having responsibility over their lives.
“It is rewarding to them and us,” said Iovino.
Judlau and The iF Foundation are also encouraged by the support given to them by Grassi & Co., accountants for Iovino and Judlau since the late 1980s.
Grassi & Co. decided to step up and help the people in Haiti by matching employee donations and collecting a total of $10,000 as well as sending out a request to other contacts and publishing a newsletter announcing their partnership with Judlau and The iF Foundation.
“We’re just trying to support Tom’s efforts,” said Rick Gavin, Partner of Grassi & Co. and construction industry niche leader. “He is the most selfless person I have ever met.”
For more information on The iF Foundation and what they are doing in Haiti, please visit www.if-foundation.org