UNDP Haiti receives award for "courage, commitment and teamwork"

30 Apr 2010

Washington - The US Committee for UNDP presented its second annual Julia V. Taft Award to the UNDP Country Office in Haiti on April 29, 2010, in Washington, DC. The Award, named in memory of the first Director of UNDP’s Bureau of Crisis Prevention and Recovery, was presented in recognition of the Haiti Country Office’s “heroic team efforts following the devastating earthquake of 12 January 2010 to help Haiti build a better future.”

The US Committee for UNDP is a volunteer group of private citizens who support UNDP’s mission and programmes and provide advice and guidance to UNDP’s senior leadership.

“Those of us who knew Julia, and worked closely with her will know that she would have been especially proud and moved to recognize the extraordinary heroism and dedication demonstrated by our colleagues in Haiti following the earthquake,” said UNDP Associate Administrator Rebeca Grynspan at the award ceremony.

During the earthquake, the structure of the UNDP office in Haiti was condemned and its annex was destroyed, causing staff members, many of whom lost family, friends and their own property in the tragedy to work under very dire conditions.

“Yet, in spite of these unimaginable circumstances, the response of the UNDP Country Office in the aftermath of the earthquake was outstanding, with our staff exhibiting tremendous courage and compassion, working non-stop, often at great risk and personal sacrifice,” Ms. Grynspan said.

Accepting the award on behalf of the Haiti Country Office were former UN Resident Coordinator, Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Kim Bolduc, and Monique Pierre-Antoine, a programme specialist in the Country Office and vice-president of the UNDP Staff Association of Haiti.

“Until 4:53 in the afternoon it seemed like a normal day. Many of the local staff had left and were heading home to be with their families. Other colleagues were still working, at the Christopher Hotel [where the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti was located], at the UNDP headquarters or in government ministries. The atmosphere was full of optimism,” Bolduc remembered. “Then the world was turned upside down, with millions of voices joined together in a single scream of pain and disbelief.”

“Colleagues immediately rose to the challenge, tending to the wounded and comforting those in shock,” Bolduc added. “Though victims themselves, my colleagues, our colleagues, thought of others before thinking of themselves.”

“Receiving this award gave me the hope Haiti will not be forgotten,” said Pierre-Antoine. She thanked her colleagues from the UNDP team who came to Haiti right after the earthquake to help while living in conditions beyond imagination. “Camping on the ground or sleeping in their office, lining up to shower or doing it at night when everybody was sleeping, to all of you I say simply, ‘Merci Beaucoup.’”

The reception and award presentation were held at the Embassy of Canada in the presence of more than 175 guests. Attendees included Julia Taft’s husband, Ambassador William H. Taft IV; her son and daughter-in-law; the Secretary General’s Special Representative to Haiti, Edmund Mulet; former U.S. Senator Timothy Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation,Canada’s Ambassador to the United States, Gary Doer, and Kenneth Wollack, President of the National Democratic Institute and Chair of the Steering Group of the US Committee for UNDP.

“Through determination, dedication, tenacity and teamwork, they [the Country Office] have accomplished much in the last 107 days, not the least of which was getting the Cash-for-Work programme up and running in Port-au-Prince within days of the earthquake,” Wollack said. “Without question, the Haiti Country Office has carried on in the best tradition of Julia Taft.”

Statements from the ceremony:
Kim Bolduc | Rebeca Grynspan

About the Taft Award: After retiring from UNDP in 2004, Julia V. Taft, the first Director of UNDP’s Bureau of Crisis Prevention and Recovery, was an active member of the U.S. Committee for UNDP. The Taft Award was created following her death in 2008. The first recipient was the UNDP County Office in Sudan in 2009.

Other resources:

UNDP Haiti: www.ht.undp.org
UNDP’s work in crisis prevention and recovery: www.undp.org/cpr/