Digicel receives recognition for Haiti support efforts

Digicel has won the 2015 Ethicalcorp Responsible Business Award for its efforts to help rebuild the education system in Haiti following the country’s devastating 2010 earthquake. 

Digicel was selected in the “Most Effective International Community Investment” category from a shortlist of eight global companies, including Barclays, the Hershey Company, Primark, UPS and Vestergard, at an awards ceremony in London on Sept. 25. 

Haiti’s education system was on the verge of collapse as a result of the 2010 earthquake, which destroyed 90 percent of the country’s infrastructure. Through the Digicel Foundation, Digicel committed to constructing 50 schools in more permanent, earthquake-resistant buildings.  

Digicel also funded teacher training courses and created jobs in local communities. To date, the Digicel Foundation has invested more than US$39 million in its school-building project, completing 150 schools and creating more than 10,500 construction jobs and making it the single largest school builder in the Caribbean, the telecommunications provider said in a press release. 

Digicel Group CEO Colm Delves said supporting communities and the needy across the world was a core part of Digicel’s ethos of giving back and helping the less fortunate.  

“It was an easy decision for Digicel to help those who were severely affected by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti – especially the children who were at a significant disadvantage due to the widespread destruction of schools across the country. Winning this award is a testament to the hard work and sacrifices made by our colleagues in Digicel Haiti and the work of the Digicel Foundation,” Mr. Delves said. “We are happy that these students now have comfortable surroundings in which to learn and grow.” 

Today, more than 50,000 students in Haiti attend schools built by the Digicel Foundation, Digicel said. The company continues to fund teacher training and development programs with an additional US$12 million. 

‘Have a Heart’ campaign 

In Cayman, the company was also recognized for its contribution to the “Have a Heart” campaign, in partnership with Health City Cayman Islands.  

The Have a Heart charity, which has supported more than 6,000 pediatric heart surgeries in India, has formed a partnership with Health City Cayman Islands and Haiti Cardiac Alliance, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization, to facilitate cardiac surgery at Health City for a number of Haitian children. 

Owen Robinson, executive director of Haiti Cardiac Alliance, said, “Many of the heart problems faced by these children cannot be dealt with in Haiti as the surgeries are too complicated. We are extremely excited to be working with the surgeons and staff at Health City as we know that they have the expertise and facilities to help these children.” 

Digicel provided one of its private jets to transport the children and their families from Haiti directly to Grand Cayman for the life-saving surgeries.  

Gene Thompson, director of Health City, thanked Digicel and said that without its contribution of its company plane, the children and their families would have had to travel via the U.S. with a visa, adding a tremendous amount to the cost of their trip, and possibly making it unachievable.  

“We are incredibly grateful to the generosity of Digicel, who have been instrumental in changing the lives of these children for the better,” Mr. Thompson said. “We look forward to extending this charitable offering to many others in need,” emphasizing that this is the philosophy that Health City was built on. 

“We’re proud to have been a part of such a worthy cause,” said Martin Bould, CEO of Digicel Group Cayman. “To see these children, some of whom could hardly walk without difficulty breathing, now playing as children should, is really touching. We are glad that Digicel could be involved and help people in need in our region.”  

The cardiac surgeries, completed free at Health City Cayman Islands, were led by Dr. Binoy Chattuparambil, senior cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon, and Dr. Sripadh Upadhya, senior pediatric cardiologist. Dr. Chandy Abraham, medical and facility director at Health City, said, “The operations went extremely well and many of the children were eating and smiling and interacting with our staff soon after surgery. They were extremely brave.” 

A view of the new building
One of the schools built by the Digicel Foundation in Haiti.