01/11/2013 08:14 pm ET Updated Mar 13, 2013

Connecting People to People in Haiti

Three years after the devastating earthquake that ravaged Port-Au-Prince, many commentators have expressed pessimism about the disparity between Haiti's slow reconstruction and the billions of dollars spent in and promised to the country. The recent New York Times editorial "Haiti's Long Road," has expressed this "distance between hope and reality." As the chairman of Libraries Without Borders, a humanitarian organization which has worked in Haiti since 2009, I reject this outlook and encourage people to recognize the earnest rebuilding efforts and successes Haitians have achieved since the earthquake.

I have witnessed firsthand how well-designed projects with small- and medium-sized budgets can make a tremendous impact if the work is implemented with local actors on the ground. Immediately following the 2010 earthquake, Libraries Without Borders set up libraries in IDP camps that helped more than 500,000 Haitians to heal from trauma and move forward through reading and education. A year later, our organization brought Haitians BiblioTapTap, 4x4 mobile libraries that provided Haiti's most remote populations with a unique space for reading, discussion and cultural activities.

After establishing the first digital library in the country, Libraries Without Borders, in partnership with the University of Haiti, is eagerly developing plans for the country's first ever central university library reserve, which will make available more than 500,000 books and academic resources to tens of thousands of Haitian students, researchers and professors.

Haitians and their institutions -- not us -- requested that books and access to knowledge and culture be made priorities for reconstruction and they were right. Books not only restore a sense of normality for disaster victims, but they also inspire communities to heal and grow. Books connect people to people. They stimulate individuals' intellect and capacity to look forward. Of course, books are not a comprehensive solution -- they are simply an important vehicle for rebuilding Haiti. At the end of the day, the strength and resolve required to put Haiti on the path to robust reconstruction and sustainable development lies with the drivers of that vehicle: its own citizens. Now, more than ever, the international community must continue supporting Haitians and accompany them in the fight for their country's future.