December 6, 2021

Woman starts nonprofit organization to aid people of Central Haiti

‘They can’t catch a break’

Photo provided by Joann Tanner

A group of Haitians hold up inflatable lanterns, which were provided by Caring Hearts for Central Haiti, a non- profit started by Joann Tanner to help people in Fort-Resolut and Carissade.

The little boy approached Joann Tanner, who was working at a clinic in Haiti recently through Hope for Haiti’s Children.

He had been passing out frequently.

“When I asked him why that was, he said it only happens when I don’t eat for three days,” Tanner said.

Tanner, a family nurse practitioner, returned Wednesday from Haiti with dozens of similar stories — kids showing signs malnutrition with their orange hair, or the little girl who had to stuff her feet back into her shoes because they were too small.

Tanner spent 12 days working in Haiti, seven in a medical clinic through Hope for Haiti’s Children and five in central Haiti doing work through her non-profit Caring Hearts for Central Haiti.

To donate

Website: Click on donate tab at
Send a check: Caring Hearts for Central Haiti, P.O. box 5348, Cortland, NY 13045

The 501(c)(3) non-profit was created to “do projects in order to better the lives of people in a small community in Fort-Resolut and Carissade in central Haiti and to work with Pastor Duronel Casseus to identify needs,” Tanner said in an email.

Tanner’s commitment to helping the people of Haiti started when she spent three months there in college. Then in 2012 she started sponsoring a little girl named Cathiana Casseus through Hope for Haiti’s Children for $35 a month. She got to know Cathiana’s family, including her older brother Duronel, who eventually became a pastor.

Tanner wanted to support Duronel Casseus and his ministry and it was suggested she start a non-profit. It was a struggle with all the time and cost, but the people of Haiti inspired her.

“They’re resilient people, they keep going, they have faith in God, but it’s like they can’t catch a break,” she said.

“Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere,” said Jena Nicols Curtis, a health department professor at SUNY Cortland who has visited the country a number of times for health-related projects, including a trip in March 2017 with SUNY Cortland students. “It’s not all uncommon for people in Haiti to survive on less than $2 a day and that’s been the case for decades.”

Curtis, who worked in India for a decade, said she had thought she knew what malnutrition was, but didn’t realize just how bad it could be until she went to Haiti.

“I had never seen anything like it,” she said.

It’s not just food though.

Health care is lacking; water is contaminated; houses in some areas are made of tarps from U.S. aid efforts or concrete slabs and corrugated metal — remnants of buildings that didn’t survive hurricanes — and Haitian people wear clothes from the U.S donated by religious groups.

Tanner said she hopes her non-profit can work with the communities in Fort-Resolut and Carissade to provide more education to children, meals and more. Over the past nine months the non-profit has:

  • Repaired a well.
  • Tested water for purity.
  • Built a latrine.
  • Provided 100 chickens to two churches around Christmas.
  • Built 20 benches for the two churches.
  • Provided school uniforms for 50 children in the school Pastor Duronel Casseus started in August.
  • Started a year-long lunch program to feed 50 children at the school.
  • Provided school supplies for 70 children in Carissade.
  • Provided Bibles and song books.
  • Gave 60 inflatable solar lanterns to the communities so they could save money on kerosene.
  • Started a lending library with books written in Haitian Creole.

Those are the smaller projects.

“The pastor I am working with has a huge vision,” Tanner said. “His vision is bigger than our budget. I keep telling him we’ll do it, we just need to wait a little.”

Some big projects include building a hurricane-resistant church that would double as a school and shelter and helping to get a more stable and reliable vehicle to transport people and supplies.

Tanner covers the administrative costs, so every donation goes straight to projects. She’s also looking for volunteers.

“It (Haiti) has got an overwhelming number of challenges, but there are a lot of fabulous people in Haiti doing amazing work,” Curtis said.

She said the thing people must remember about working in Haiti, though, is to think about projects that can be sustainable so that it “builds up communities and allows them to use their own resources and skills.”

Tanner said she may not have the solution to solving every issue, but “I know there are 50 kids going to school now and getting a meal every day.”

“I see that as my area of interest,” she said. “These kids are the future of Haiti.”

Haiti Statistics