I met Karen Ashmore three years ago at a fundraiser for Haiti, in Denver Colorado. I was immediately very impressed with her dedication to help the people of Haiti.
I was even more intrigued after learning that she had adopted three Haitian children. It was through her that I first learned about the Lambi Fund of Haiti.
What made you decide to work for the Lambi Fund of Haiti?
I believe in social change and people helping themselves vs. charity. When my husband and I adopted our first daughter from an orphanage in Haiti, we saw the extreme poverty and wanted to do something. I researched organizations working in Haiti and Lambi Fund was head and shoulders above the rest. We started donating, then i became a consultant to Lambi Fund, then the board hired me as interim ED when the previous Executive Director resigned. I fell in love with the position and they ended up hiring me.
Can you please tell the readers about your background?
I have served on numerous boards (including Grantmakers without Borders), have over 25 years non-profit experience, and have raised over $20 million dollars for organizations in both US and Haiti . I have a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and will complete my masters degree in International Studies this year. My husband and I have raised six children, three of whom are from Haiti.
How long have you been the executive director of Lambi Fund?
I understand at one point you were kidnapped while in Haiti; that did not stop you from returning to Haiti. Can you tell the readers what happened and how you were able to get out of that potentially deadly situation.?
I was kidnapped along with 3 other women on Nat’l Route #1 in Haiti in 2005. Aristide had been deposed and there was a lot of political instability and kidnappings. We were kidnapped by 4 gunmen who came out of nowhere, and forced our male driver from the vehicle. Shouting and brandishing their weapons, two of them jumped in the front, one on each side of the woman sitting there. The other two shoved in back and one crammed in next to me, his gun cocked at my throat. The car accelerated wildly. The new driver ground the gears, banged us through potholes, veering dangerously. The men screamed at one another, gasping for breath and sweating.
I though: ”I can’t die. My adopted children have already lost their mother once!”
The men shouted: ”Where is your money? What do you have?” They took our wedding rings, cameras, laptops, cash and credit cards. could see the face of the man beside me. . ”There must be more!” yelled the angry driver. ”Women are crafty!” They grabbed my breasts and ordered my colleague to pull up her skirt and groped her in search of hidden money. The driver swerved down another gravel road, fishtailing. They were shouting — arguing about where and how to execute us.
One of them was going thru my wallet and found photos of my kids. He demanded to know who they were. “My children,” I replied. Soon the energy level started decreasing. Suddenly the driver slammed on brakes in the middle of nowhere and yelled “Sorti! Sorti!” -Get out, get out
Startled, we opened the car door and I fell out. One of the men said “Run! Run for your lives!” We took off running and did not stop until we encountered a small church and banged on the gate for help. An old Haitian priest shuffled to the gate and let us in. We were frightened and as we told him what happened, he took us into the inner sanctum to hide.
We were eventually rescued by our staff in Haiti, who took us back to Port au Prince. We caught a flight home the next day. When your life is in danger, you want nothing else but to be with your family.
I am the only one that was kidnapped who has continued working with Lambi Fund and going back repeatedly to Haiti. In a way, I felt more committed because this is the type of thing that is experienced consistently by grassroots Haitians who are struggling for democracy and justice.