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Americares President and CEO Michael J. Nyenhuis leads a health-focused relief and development organization that saves lives and improves health for people affected by poverty or disaster.
I met the president of Haiti Jovenel Moïse in late September at the annual Concordia Summit in New York. Concordia brings together global leaders in government, business, academia and civil society to promote social progress around the world.
President Moïse has a tough job. With its rich history, industrious people and Caribbean location, Haiti is full of promise. But it is full of problems, as well — a history of bad governance and corruption, outside interference and meddling, earthquakes and hurricanes and more. Experienced in business but new to politics, Moïse has pledged to focus on building the nation’s economy.
The president and I led a conversation on disaster preparedness: He gave a keynote speech on the topic, and I moderated a panel discussion among experts in the field. President Moïse closed his remarks with a phrase that is as relevant as ever: think global, act local.
As I wrote in a previous blog, action at the local level can be a powerful force. Many people have come to believe that effective, sustainable change must occur locally before gaining enough momentum to change nations and the world.
I heard similar refrains throughout the Concordia Summit. The actor Jennifer Lawrence gave a compelling talk on an effort here in the United States to chase corruption from our political system. She spoke on behalf of RepresentUs, a nonpartisan organization focused on changing campaign finance laws to lessen the impact of money in our domestic politics.
RepresentUs believes changing the system from the top through federal legislation is nearly impossible. Reshaping it at the bottom by passing local and state laws, however, will ultimately create a shift at the national level. Ms. Lawrence gave several examples of success.
Local action can lead to real change. We believe that, too, at Americares. It is why we collaborate with local health centers to help them improve the services they provide to their communities. In Haiti, Houston and elsewhere, Americares partners with local health providers to ensure that every new program is relevant to the community. Want to change the health of a nation? Start locally.
Americares clinic in rural El Salvador meets the needs of three generations — including vaccinations and information on nutrition for all ages. Photo by Annie Mulligan
This is a great message. The problems we face often seem daunting. But if we introduce change at the local level, each of us can have real impact. Whether it’s a law, an economic program or a public health initiative, one action leads to another and a groundswell begins. That is how the world is changed.
Whatever your passion, take action locally today and see where it goes.