Red Cross faces controversy over possible Haiti hotel

Deacon Patrick Moynihan speaks to students at the Louverture Cleary School in Haiti.
Deacon Patrick Moynihan speaks to students at the Louverture Cleary School in Haiti.

.- Recent news that the Red Cross may be planning to build a luxury conference center and hotel in Haiti using donor funds has drawn criticism from local missionaries and charity watchdog groups.

“It's interesting to think about if the decision is being motivated by the Red Cross executives desiring to have a nice facility for themselves to use and have control over,” CharityWatch president, Daniel Borochoff, told CNA.

On March 27, the Associated Press reported that the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Society is considering plans to convert a $10.5 million, 10-acre compound that was purchased after local headquarters were destroyed in the 2010 earthquake.

The land is located near the Haiti International Airport and now serves as living space for aid workers, relief trucks and offices.

Although the Haitian Red Cross headquarters will remain on the compound in Tabarre, which is near the capitol of Port-Au-Prince, discussions have begun as for what purpose the remaining land will serve.

Now that relief efforts are slowing down, Eduard Tschan, Head of Delegation in Haiti, said that two possible options are to either sell the remaining land or to find a business partner to build a luxury hotel and conference center with profits going towards the Hatian Red Cross.

Although no final decision has been made as of yet, critics have already voiced their concern that the hotel is even a possibility.

Deacon Patrick Moynihan said that he is worried about so much money going towards the “wrong focus” in Haiti.

As president of The Haitian Project, a missionary organization which supports and operates Louverture Cleary School –  a tuition-free Catholic boarding school in Haiti – Moynihan said the most important thing for the Haitian people is education.

In order to help establish a stable environment, “Haiti needs more education and then jobs,” he told CNA March 29.

The concern is not a matter of whether or not Haiti needs hotels, which it does Moynihan said, but rather that there was no mention of such a project when the Red Cross solicited for funds.

“You know that people who donated,” Moynihan said, “really cared and wanted to do something.”

The fact that the Red Cross can consider undertaking such a project shows that they received more money than they needed for emergency relief services, he said.

In a March 30 interview, Daniel Borochoff added that ideally, by working with a local business, the hotel and conference center would provide jobs and business for the local economy in the growing city.

However, he wondered if they would use the hotel for housing aid workers and employees.

Before spending the public's money, Borochoff said that “all charities need to think about how the donor would feel” about how their donation is spent.

In this case, Borochoff said, donor funds could be going towards a business venture that simply “may not work.”

Should another emergency arise while undertaking such a project, donor funds that could have gone to emergency relief efforts would be tied up until the hotel were finished and operational, Borochoff pointed out.

“I think they need to go back to the drawing board and come up with some better ideas for the use of that property,” he said.

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Communications Coordinator Becky Webb confirmed that no final decision for the use of the property has been made as of yet.

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