Building and Sustaining Haiti

Three years ago, long before the world's attention was riveted on Haiti's tragic destruction from a massive earthquake, Case Institute of Technology alumnus Peter Galen and a friend believed in the saving power of a wellbuilt toilet. Together, the duo founded the Mangrove Fund, a Portland, Ore.-based nonprofit that funds sustainable projects in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country.

Made of readily available materials—and easily decorated with murals or a coat of paint—their first project, a compost toilet, can serve several hundred people in a village. One chamber takes care of waste, while the other creates compost that can fertilize nonfood crops.

Mangrove also donated to a women's embroidery collective on the Haitian island of La Gonave, enabling the collective to buy materials and double its workforce to 30.

Since the January earthquake that affected one-third of Haitians, Mangrove has been inundated with donations. In 2008, the fund reported $31,000 in contributions; in the two weeks following the earthquake, it brought in about $50,000.

"The plan is not to rush things," Galen says. "There's so much confusion, so much money floating around. We want to make sure it's going to the right place."

The challenges of rebuilding Haiti—no infrastructure, a weak central government, deforestation—are many. "But from what I know of the people, they want change," Galen says. "They want good things for their children. There are a lot of historical reasons why Haiti is like it is, but that's not as important as what you do in the future."