Shortly after the devastating January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, residents of Essex with the support of the Town Selectmen decided to reach out and help the people of Deschapelles, Haiti. Many residents in the Essex area had previously travelled to Deschapelles at the invitation of Jenifer Grant, the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Larry and Gwen Mellon who founded Hospital Albert Schweitzer (HAS) in 1956 in rural Deschapelles. Contact was made with ODES (Organization for Economic and Social Development), a volunteer organization of residents of Deschapelles. A relationship was forged by envisioning the community of Deschapelles flourishing educationally and culturally.
On June 25, 2010, Sister Cities Essex Haiti, Inc. was formed and became a member of Sister Cities International, an organization formed in 1956 by President Dwight Eisenhower to encourage cultural understanding, economic relationships and humanitarian projects. In September 2013, Sister Cities Essex Haiti received designation as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.
While the genesis of SCEH was in Essex, the organization has gone far beyond its borders and now draws volunteers and supporters throughout Connecticut and beyond.