Helping Haiti’s poor, vulnerable

Helping Haiti’s poor, vulnerable

Security Supervisor Tammy Aristilde receives Meritorious Service Medal for volunteer service in Haiti.

By Chris Moffatt Armes

June 28, 2016


Queen’s security supervisor Tammy Aristilde received the Meritorious Service Medal from Governor General David Johnston on Thursday, June 23, in recognition of her volunteer service to residents of some of Haiti’s poorest neighborhoods.

Ms. Aristilde was one of 35 recipients of the medal, which is awarded to civilians and Canadian Forces members in recognition of outstanding actions that bring benefit or honour to the nation.

“I was shocked and surprised at receiving word that I had been nominated for the medal,” says Ms. Aristilde. “It certainly caught me off guard. It’s not a call anyone would expect to get.”

Queen's staff member Tammy Aristilde received the Meritorious Service Medal from the Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, at a ceremony on June 21, 2016. (Photo Credit: WO Ronald Duchesne, Rideau Hall © OSGG, 2016)

In 2008, Ms. Aristilde founded the organization Helping Haiti, in an effort to improve the lives of residents in Cite Soleil. Home to nearly a quarter million residents, the densely-populated commune is one of the poorest and most dangerous communities in the Western Hemisphere.

During biannual trips to Haiti, Ms. Aristilde and her fellow volunteers have undertaken a number of projects to provide crucial services. In recent years, they have constructed a water tower and assisted with the construction of a medical clinic – staffed by locally-trained medical personnel and supported by volunteers from the Queen’s University chapter of Helping Haiti. Plans are currently underway to assist with the construction of a new community centre. The organization has also worked to teach a wide variety of courses, such as first aid courses and intensive self-defense courses for local women.

“For nearly a decade, Ms. Aristilde and her colleagues with Helping Haiti have been dedicated to providing aide and assistance to some of the world’s most impoverished and in need,” says Principal Daniel Woolf. “We are proud of her continued service to both the citizens of Haiti and the Queen’s community, and we are thrilled to see her efforts recognized with the Meritorious Service Medal.”

Created in 1991, the Meritorious Service Medal recognizes individuals – both Canadian and foreign – who have carried out meritorious acts bringing benefit and honour to Canada. It is awarded in two categories – one for members of the Canadian Forces, and one for civilians. It is one of two Meritorious Service Decorations awarded by Queen Elizabeth II through the Governor General.

“The award has come to me, but I’m simply a representative of the incredibly unique team we have both in Canada and in Haiti,” says Ms. Aristilde. “It’s a group effort and the strength in our group is driven and constant. This is a medal for Helping Haiti.”

Ms. Aristilde plans to return to Cite Soleil in July to continue the organization’s work in the community. To learn more about Helping Haiti, or to see how you can get involved, please visit the website.