About Us

Collaboration, transparency, accountability, diversity, and environmental integrity.

Mission

Partners in Progress works with rural based organizations in Haiti to strengthen local cultural, social, and environmental assets for building sustainable community.

Vision

Rural communities in Haiti are places where people want to live and raise a family; where neighbors work with common cause to ensure the health and well being of people and the environment and to continuously imagine and shape a prosperous, hope-filled future.

Our History

Partners in Progress (“PIP”) is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt non-profit organization founded in 1999 by the Pittsburgh Haiti Solidarity Committee to promote sustainable rural development in Haiti.

Partners in Progress addresses the issue of limited opportunities and resources for self-determination and the dependency this creates on external development agendas and resources. The Haitian government provides almost no support for rural communities that would enable them to develop skills and resources for advancing their own development priorities. Agricultural extension, for example, has virtually ceased. Most rural development support comes from NGO or faith-based organizations, usually in the form of short trainings in technologies that are prioritized from outside. Though well meaning, this typically results in initiatives that are poorly suited to community needs.

PIP’s initial focus was to link community organizations, primarily in the region of Fondwa, with technical expertise and funding to support health care, education and economic development. We learned that this type of support was not having lasting impact or building the capabilities of communities to become self-sufficient. Decision-making about development priorities were made by a select few and therefore did not lead to growth and innovation. In order to promote more inclusive decision making and to address the capacity building needs of our partners in community organizing and project planning and management, PIP began working more as a collaborative partner in sustainable development initiatives.

Values

Our core values and beliefs guide everything we do, large and small. We:

For PIP, sustainable community development is that which:

  • Takes an integrated approach to meeting basic needs that also works to address systemic challenges facing rural communities
  • Is inclusive and promotes equity and social justice
  • Improves the health of the environment (soil, plant and animal life, air, water) for future generations
  • Generates local wealth, while promoting equitable distribution of resources
  • Depends and builds on local knowledge, resources, and innovation to the greatest extent possible
  • Builds community capacity for self organizing, imagining, and developing the resources needed to realize a shared vision of the future
  • Fosters resiliency and self-reliance

What does sustainable community look like?

  • Believe in the inherent right of all peoples to clean air, water, land and other resources necessary to meet their basic needs and live with dignity;
  • Work to reclaim and revitalize the knowledge, values, and traditions of our ancestors that can lead to more sustainable outcomes;
  • Trust in the power of communities to create innovative solutions to the problems they face;
  • Believe that we should be “inclusive” in our work and that everyone has something to contribute and teach;
  • Consider the implications of our decisions on future generations; and
  • Recognize our interdependency with each other and the rest of creation.

Meet the Team

Passionate and dedicated to improving conditions for rural Haiti, our core team brings with them an enormous range of talent, with diverse backgrounds and skill sets to help make a lasting, positive impact. Additionally, we work with some of the best and brightest leaders in the sustainable development field. Meet the people who work as Partners in Progress staff and associates, serve on the Board of Directors, or otherwise represent some of our partners in progress.

Staff and Consultants

In the early to mid ‘80s and into the ‘90s, I was involved with rehabilitation of distressed properties and real estate development and acquisition. During that era, I came to learn the truth of conventional building materials. They are hazardous to health. This fact came home personally. My wife, Nora, was employed by a large medical center in California as a psychologist. The hospital received a brand new building for the mental health department. “Brand new building”….new carpet, sheetrock, paint, upholstery, caulking, new everything, combined with windows that didn’t open, in order to allow the mechanically “managed” air to function without interference. She began a downward health spiral shortly after relocating to her new office.

We decided to leave California for rural Colorado, and I began my search for a healthier, non-toxic, building material. I attended seminars on various “green” systems. I found the answer beneath my feet in a presentation outside of Durango. I leased a machine from New Mexico and built what we now refer to as Earth Block One….my first anyway. Following the completion of our home in 1995, I founded Earth Block Inc. and, for ten years, built many homes of earth in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.

In 2004, I was presented an opportunity in Mexico to be the Director of Earth Block Manufacturing for the Loreto Bay Company. I was there from April 2004 until November 2006. We manufactured 1.5 million lime-stabilized earth blocks for the development. An unforeseen benefit of that adventure was an appreciation for Mexico that I continue to carry, for the people, their history, and culture. Departing Baja, my friend and soon-to-be partner, Jeff, and I drove to San Miguel de Allende and with our Mexican partner, Monica, founded Instituto Tierra y Cal A.C. on 20 acres outside of SMA. We were off to a pretty good start, having conducted several well-attended workshops with international students and professors and, in fact, had merged with Mexico’s branch of Engineers Without Borders when the Great Financial Debacle of ’08 decimated our real estate in the U.S. and the gringos stopped coming to Mexico.

I came back across the Rio Grande to Texas. Texas?? Over the course of the previous five or six years, we had conducted about a dozen workshops in San Antonio with Lawrence Jetter of AECT, our machine manufacturer. I met a lot of Texans. One of them, Carson, still my friend and coach, convinced me to have a look at Fredericksburg. Nora and I are still here and have been, primarily, since 2011.

Recently (2017 to 2019), I’m proud to have spent the better parts of two + years (no winters!) co-founding Colorado Earth with Lisa Morey. I have returned to Texas and continue to conduct my earthen building career through Earth Block Texas (U.S. projects) and Earth Block International (over the border). Lisa carries on as the sole owner of Colorado Earth. Lisa and I continue to collaborate on various projects and look forward to continuing to support each other in our mutual missions.

Reaching back to 2006, Nora and I were fortunate to purchase a home in San Miguel de Allende.

We enjoy it as much as we can and plan for a more equal division of our time between Texas and Mexico….a truly Tex-Mex existence.
Throughout this story I have been blessed with travel inspired by my mission for earth blocks: Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Ethiopia, South Africa, Zambia, but, most importantly, Haiti. During these travels I have also had the opportunity to meet, and be mentored by, many of the giants in our field and worked with some great partners and employees. I’ve tried to mention and honor most of them in the “Mentors and Heroes” photo folder.

Haiti: the poorest country in the Western hemisphere…abundant in need and good people. My experience there has been one of resilient and hard-working people, eager to learn and work. They aren’t in need of a hand out, but rather, a leg up. I met Mike Neumann at a conference in Detroit in about 2006. Through Mike’s efforts and belief in our earthen system, we have been working together for Partners in Progress, Pittsburgh, in Haiti, since 2009 and continue to the present. Mike is currently the Executive Director of PIP and has long served as the driver of their successful agro-ecology project in Haiti. Currently, while continuing our efforts in Haiti for earth block schools and housing, and agro-ecology advancements, Mike and I are exploring opportunities in Uganda and Egypt. Food and Shelter are just below Air and Water on the “needs list” for survival.

My mission is to help as many people as possible understand the benefits of earthen construction and to help them into an earthen structure. “Services” is a category stop on this website tour.

This is a narrative auto-biography covering my time in the CEB world.

The Earth has the answers.

Jim

Board of Directors

In Minnesota Harriet worked with Redeemer Lutheran Church as Executive Assistant in Minneapolis, MN, currently a Host at Redeemer Center for Life a community service space, and a Community garden coordinator in Minneapolis, MN.  She is a member of the council at Redeemer Lutheran Church She is actively involved in community organizing at EJAM (Environmental Justice Advocate of Minnesota).  Harriet advocates for peaceful resolutions and is a peace educator, trainer, facilitator, activist and inspirational public speaker.

In her life-long campaign for woman suffrage, Harriet started a community garden, and a diverse women quilting project (The Healing Threads) to enable stressed women find peaceful creative community of peace.  While living in Uganda, Harriet initiated and supported orphans of war and HIV/AIDS victims by introducing them to sewing and other sustainable creative activities to give them hope and a feeling of self-worth.

In Minnesota she established and raised awareness of healthy eating and healthy relationship and beautiful environment among the low income community and inspired individuals.  Inspires community leaders to embrace solutions and not concentrate on conflicts or problems with conceptions of eliminating “silent killer” – unhealthy eating, “environment” and “environmentalism” across racial, cultural, and socio-economic differences; rural environmental justice; radical environmental and social justice movements.

In Minnesota, Harriet has initiated projects that provide healing that include a community vegetable garden and a healing Thread Project.  On June 26, 2010 she spoke at the Commemoration of the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.  In 2009 She spoke at the Feminist Panel to discuss “Realities of Refugee Women in Minnesota Today” at St. Thomas University in St. Paul, MN.  In 2010 Harriet spoke at the Noble Peace Prize Forum on “Finding Peace After Pain.”  In 2009 she received the Minnesota Quilters “Beginners’ Scholarship Award.  She is currently a leader in the Harrison community and in multiple roles at Redeemer Center for Life in Minneapolis. She spoke to “The Young Mom Mission“at Redeemer Center for Life.  Harriet is an activist in sustainable food documentary including other creativities that builds peaceful community.

Interested in becoming a member of the team?

We look for individuals who exhibit leadership, vision and passion for work in Haiti to serve on our Board of Directors, or work as a partner. Experience in fundraising, community organizing, and international development are preferred. If you are interested in learning more about this service opportunity, please reach out to us.

Our work in rural Haiti is fueled by generous contributions from loyal donors like you. Please consider becoming a MONTHLY sponsor of Partners in Progress today.

All donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law.