Shortly after the devastating January 2010 earthquake in Port au Prince, Haiti, the Selectmen of Essex, Connecticut USA contacted Jenifer Grant, an Essex resident, expressing an interest in the Town of Essex engaging in long-term support for the people of Haiti and especially those around Hospital Albert Schweitzer, located in Deschapelles, Haiti. Jenifer has a life-long commitment to Haiti as the daughter of Larry and Gwen Mellon, the founders of Hospital Albert Schweitzer (“HAS”) in Deschapelles, and as a board member of HAS.
A group of Essex residents, all familiar with HAS, realized that creating a Sister City relationship, under the auspices of Sister Cities International, would provide wider opportunities for the overall community of Essex to understand and thus support HAS and address some of the challenges that a community such as Deschapelles encounters on a daily basis. Sister City International is an organization that was formed in 1956 under the leadership of President Eisenhower to encourage cultural and economic understanding and cooperation among nations.
In March and April 2010, ODES (Organization pour Development Economique et Social–Organization for Economic and Social Development), a volunteer organization in Deschapelles, Haiti, and the Selectmen of the Town of Essex exchanged letters expressing their mutual desire to establish a sister city relationship. To learn more about ODES, click here.
In April 2010, Essex residents traveled to Deschapelles to further the discussions. They met with people involved in both HAS and the Deschapelles community to discuss a potential first Sister City project. It was determined that the project should be: (a) needed in Deschapelles; (b) achievable within a relatively short time period; (c) affordable; (d) appealing to a large number of constituents in both Deschapelles and Essex; (e) suitable for Deschapelles and Essex residents to develop a sustainable relationship; (f) conducive to educating Essex residents about Haiti and its unique qualities, needs and opportunities for collaboration; and (g) conducive to educating Deschapelles residents about Essex and its unique qualities, needs and opportunities for collaboration. A project was immediately identified that meets all of the criteria: the establishment of a library/community center. To learn more about the library/community center, click here.
On May 19, 2010, the Selectmen of the Town of Essex deemed it to be in the best interests of the Town to develop a long-term sustainable relationship between it, HAS and Deschapelles and its environs for humanitarian, cultural, educational, and economic purposes. They unanimously approved resolutions creating a Sister-Cities relationship, appointing a Board charged with, among other things, effectuating the sister-cities relationship, approving and authorizing projects by which the mission of the Board can be realized, and creating committees or task forces to realize such projects. On June 25, 2010, Sister Cities Essex Haiti, Inc., a Connecticut nonprofit corporation, was formed to effectuate the charge of the Selectmen.
In June 2010, SCEH became a member of Sister Cities International, Inc., an organization formed in 1956 by President Dwight D Eisenhower as a means by which to encourage cultural understanding, economic relationships, and humanitarian projects.
In September 2013, Sister Cities Essex Haiti designation as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. All donations to SCEH are tax-deductible according to federal guidelines.
Sister Cities Essex Haiti continues the Have a Heart for Haiti initiative undertaken by a group of Essex residents shortly after the earthquake to increase awareness of, and raise funds for, Hospital Albert Schweitzer.