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Moved by parents' death in quake, Montrealer reached out to help

Before the earthquake, Dominique Anglade could count more than a handful of blessings.

The diminutive 36-year-old, who hails from a prominent Haitian-Canadian family, had a thriving career as a management consultant, two young children, an adoring husband, and a sprawling mansion in Westmount.

Then, nearly a year ago, she earned another, uncomfortable distinction: Her parents, George and Merille Anglade, became the first Canadians confirmed killed in the blurry aftermath of Jan. 12, 2010. They were crushed in the computer room of their family compound in the Mont-Joli neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince. A five-page autopsy report noted they died holding hands.

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Their demise left a gaping hold in Ms. Anglade's life, but it also steeled her in unexpected ways, fuelling the creation of Kanpe (Creole for "stand up") a non-profit that promises a new model for delivering health, educational, farming and other assistance to rural Haitians struggling to rebuild their lives. Kanpe seeks to cut through the daunting labyrinth of aid organizations by providing families with a guide - a Haitian caseworker to help assess their needs and find sustainable solutions. Essentially, Kanpe wants to help Haitians help themselves. The end goal is financial autonomy.

The death of Mr. Anglade, a long-time professor, founder of the University of Quebec at Montreal, and former Haitian cabinet minister, along with his wife, shocked Montreal's tight-knit Haitian community. Ms. Anglade allotted herself exactly six weeks to mourn before launching herself back into work at the consulting firm McKinsey. On the side, she nurtured Kanpe.

"Despite the pain I was going through, I thought of all of the people in Haiti who don't have parents or children any more. People lost everything. And I thought I can't sit here in Montreal and feel bad about myself when there is such devastation in Haiti. I am probably in a better position than most who have been touched by this," reflected Ms. Anglade, who was born in Montreal, but lived in Haiti for several years as a teenager before returning to Canada for university.

"I felt very lucky," Ms. Anglade recalled the other day, curled on a white leather couch in her airy living room.

For Ms. Anglade, the earthquake brought the persistent problems of international aid to Haiti into sharp focus.

"There are thousands of NGOs operating in Haiti and obviously it's not working. I thought, there most be something we can do to fight poverty that hasn't been done in the past. How can we add value from a Canadian perspective?" she mused.

A big part of that was eliminating the silos of competing aid organizations that work toward separate ends. Kanpe's model targets families, assessing all of their needs and formulating co-ordinated solutions.

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Back in Montreal, Ms. Anglade cobbled together a board that includes everyone from Paul Farmer, the U.S. doctor who founded Partners In Health to Régine Chassagne, the Montreal singer from Arcade Fire whose parents emigrated from Haiti during the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier. They enlisted corporate support from KPMG, Domtar and McKinsey, where she works.

The organization is now seeking to raise $2-million to work with 500 families in the village of Thomonde in Haiti's central plateau. Arcade Fire has pledged to match every donation, up to $1-million. Barely six months old, Kanpe has raised $200,000. Its goal is to empower Haitians to deliver aid rather than parachuting outsiders into the country.

In practical terms this means identifying the neediest families - those with no income, malnourished children and no hope - and solving their problems through a Haitian caseworker. The caseworker assesses each family and comes up with a game plan to get them back on their feet. The plan is meant to be holistic, including everything from health care to financial support to education.

On the ground, Kanpe has partnered with two of the most admired aid organizations in Haiti: Partners In Health and Fonkoze, a peasant bank that specialized in microfinance. Ms. Anglade, who has travelled to Haiti twice since the earthquake, once to bury her parents and last week to further Kanpe's work, hopes to have the first 150 families selected to receive help in three months.

"People say there is nothing happening in Haiti. There's not enough, but there are things happening," she says.

"People say they are tired of giving to Haiti, but then just last week we received a $66 donation from a three-year-old boy with a lemonade stand, so I refuse to be discouraged," she adds.

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Kanpe's founders hope the charity will be a pilot project for how aid is delivered to other regions of Haiti in the future. Organizers are meticulously documenting their efforts, measuring what works and what doesn't so that others can copy them.

Ms. Anglade can see the difference her fundraising efforts in Canada are making on the ground in Haiti. She recalls a woman she met in Thomonde who had nothing until she was given three goats, as part of a microfinance initiative, which multiplied to eight goats in less than a year.

Curious, Ms. Anglade asked the woman if goats had really made a difference in her life.

The woman stared back at Ms. Anglade, dumbfounded.

"She was looking at me like I was completely crazy. 'Before I had nothing, and now I have eight goats,' she kept saying. For her that meant the world."

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About the Author

Sonia Verma writes about foreign affairs for The Globe and Mail. Based in Toronto, she has recently covered economic change in Latin America, revolution in Egypt, and elections in Haiti. Before joining The Globe in 2009, she was based in the Middle East, reporting from across the region for The Times of London and New York Newsday. More

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