or orphanage. In the best cases, the two
parties form a close relationship, with aid
flowing from the U.S. and addressing the
most critical needs in Haiti. Concerning
the giving based around the relationship,
the U.S. twins often report that they get
much more out of the relationship than
they give. Our role is to nurture the relationship by facilitating communications
and financial flow and reporting, and by
providing logistical support for visits.
Because of the distance, language barriers (French and Creole are the official
languages, with most of the population
speaking Creole), and lack of infrastructure in Haiti, this intervention is an
important part of keeping the relationships strong.
This position felt right to me. A
chance to help those truly in need, with
a focus on long-term improvement—not
just a band-aid, but truly recognizing the
reality of their situation.
So how did my actuarial/insurance
career prepare me for this position?
While there are certainly stylistics differences between a nonprofit and a
corporation, most of the same skill sets
are required. Managing people, both
those directly under your control and
those working remotely, is a shared skill.
Communicating with someone who does
not speak English as a native language
has the same risks, and requires the same
care in avoiding misunderstandings.
Setting priorities, working with limited
resources, monitoring work product, improving workflow processes, monitoring
financials and exercising fiscal restraint,
creating a brand, developing a market
strategy, “selling” your product—all of
these are all skills that you need to excel
in the corporate world or the nonprofit
Most of these are not “core” actu-
arial skills, but they are skills that most
actuaries develop as they make their
way higher into management, or work
at smaller companies where they may
have to do a little of everything (or a lot
Interestingly, one of the first things
I did after starting a year ago was the
closest use of actuarial skills I have experienced in this new role. I priced an
array of lab tests for a potential agreement with Sean Penn’s clinic, very near
ours in Port-au-Prince. It was already
well under way, and the staff members
at OTH were doing all the right things.
They understood the marginal costs,
they had done a market survey. They
were discussing potential changes to
tests where we were not as competitive.
My actuarial background made this process second nature to me.
While most skill sets are the same,
there are indeed some differences between the corporate world I left and the
Haiti at a Glance
Shares the island of Hispaniola
with the Dominican Republic
Population of approx. 10. 3
Poorest country in the Western
Life expectancy of 62. 7 years
60.7% literacy rate
70% of workforce unemployed
(40%) or underemployed (30%)
57% of population has access
to safe drinking water
28% of population has access
to sanitation facilities
20% of children begin
secondary school (which starts
at grade 7)