Elizabeth Davison has a degree in speech, theater and broadcasting from Montclair State University in New Jersey. She has been a nurse, a television producer for New Jersey’s Public Broadcasting Station and Comcast, Director of the Women’s Board Association for the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and Executive Director of Gilda’s Club of Northern New Jersey.
Davison moved to Naples in 2004 and served as volunteer services manager for Avow Hospice. After working with Avow for four years, Davison became Executive Director of Hope for Haiti.
Hope for Haiti has been committed to creating sustainable communities in Haiti for more than 20 years. Hope for Haiti’s mission is to improve the future of Haiti through providing access to education, nutrition and health care. Rather than building new schools and clinics, Hope for Haiti partners with those who are already successfully ministering to the poor in Haiti. In this way, Hope for Haiti makes sure that 95 cents of every dollar donated is used to support programs to ensure brighter futures for Haiti’s children.
Hope for Haiti works with community and religious private schools to increase poor children’s access to education. Its goal is to increase student enrollment as well as the quality of education students receive. Hope for Haiti provides nutrition and medication to malnourished children by working with three nutrition clinics to provide medication and supplies to more than 60 health care outreach centers. Hope for Haiti also helps supply clean drinking water to Haitians.
1. IF YOU COULD GATHER THE COMMUNITY AND TELL THEM ONE THING ABOUT YOUR CHARITY, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Hope for Haiti’s mission is to improve the quality of life for the people of Haiti, particularly children, through education, nutrition and health care. We currently support 40 schools, 10,000 students and 400 teachers. We also support three nutrition clinics caring and saving the lives of more than 5,000 severely malnourished children each year. These nutrition clinics also distribute children’s multivitamins, vitamin A, deworming medication and prenatal vitamins. In health care, we provide primary and dental care through our infirmary in Les Cayes, in southern Haiti, and distributed more than $10 million in medications and supplies from our pharmacy and through our network of more than 60 education and healthcare partners annually. I know this is more than one thing, but how can I choose just one?
2. WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT HAVING A CHARITY IN SOUTHWEST FLORIDA?
It is not unique to have a charity in Southwest Florida and there are many worthwhile causes out there. It is very unique to have an international development charity here in Southwest Florida. Hope for Haiti’s worldwide headquarters is right here in Naples, Fla., where the community has embraced and supported our mission since the very beginning which was more than 24 years ago when our founder, JoAnne Kuehner, first visited Haiti on a mission trip. Hope for Haiti supporters in Southwest Florida have recognized the severe need in Haiti and admire the fact that we work with a very low overhead, achieving a Four Star rating by Charity Navigator, the country’s largest independent charity evaluator.
3. WHAT SURPRISES YOU THE MOST ABOUT WORKING WITH THIS CHARITY?
When I first came to interview with JoAnne Kuehner, I was mesmerized by her stories of Haiti and knew I wanted to work with her and help as much as I could. When I went to Haiti on my first mission trip, I was astounded by the severe poverty. You can read about it and see pictures, but when you go there and touch it and feel it and you look into the eyes of those who are suffering, you are never the same.
4. WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO DEVOTE YOUR TIME TO THIS CAUSE OVER OTHERS?
It really was after meeting with JoAnne Kuehner that I became passionate about working with her. She told me on that first day that we met that people who go to Haiti get “bit by the Haiti bug.” I didn’t really know what she meant then, but after my first trip, I found out. You come back always thinking about what you can do to help. It never leaves your mind. I do love to help people, and nursing and hospice care also left me feeling fulfilled, but nothing touches your soul like being able to help more than 500,000 people. That is how many we feel we touch in a year.
5. HOW DOES WORKING FOR YOUR CHARITY MAKE YOU FEEL?
Helping to educate and provide nourishment and health care to the most appreciative and loving people, who sometimes have less than nothing, humbles me. When we get news from Haiti that a patient who had a 70-pound tumor removed from his leg survived and is smiling after many years of pain, I cry with sheer joy. I had an opportunity to meet this gentleman when he first came to the infirmary. The sight was something I will never forget. He lost his leg, but he also lost his pain and has a real chance for a good future.