This time one year ago, I boarded a plane bound for Port-au-Prince, Haiti with a bunch of complete strangers and Lisa McKinney, a women renowned among Culverhouse students as the world’s most entertaining Accounting professor. Little did I know the impact this trip would have upon both myself and countless others.

What started as a teaching venture to communicate basic business skills and financial literacy to aspiring entrepreneurs in the community has blossomed into a forest. And by forest, I mean forest of projects that span from elementary school bookkeeping to advising a local motorcycle parts business. This past year, Lisa and the HERD (Haitian Economic & Research Development team) tirelessly juggled requests for business start-ups, capital funding investments, and a broad range of advisory services. Lisa’s never-ending supply of energy and passion for Haiti has found an outlet in this community; an area of the world which desperately needs human capital of all sorts.

To better understand how we can serve the Haitians, on-the-ground research will be conducted by myself and a team of UA students in the coming week. In retrospect, we realized our effectiveness is limited by our lack of knowledge; how can one help a country without first understanding the factors that comprise the current social and economic environment? To that extent, through one-on-one conversations with both business owners and families alike we hope to glean insight and information not found on any search engine–what do the Haitians truly need? What are their hopes and dreams, their unrealized job opportunities and fears for their children? Once answered, these questions will guide HERD into an era of long-lasting and effective positive change in the Gallett Chambon community.

One year and many impromptu meetings later, HERD has molded hopeful ideas, far-fetched dreams, and creative solutions into a concrete organization with one bold mission statement (see below). All happy vibes sent our direction would be much appreciated as we venture back into the Caribbean!

HERD empowers rural Haitian entrepreneurs and develops University of Alabama students through business education, actionable research, and experiential learning.