How BHI began

   Jim Ansara with rendering of University Hospital in Mirebalais

 Jim Ansara with rendering of University Hospital in Mirebalais

Retired after 30 years of running one of the largest design and construction companies in the United States, Jim Ansara was already volunteering to help plan a new hospital for Haiti when a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck in January 2010. Among the unimaginable devastation was the loss of the country’s largest hospital and many of its staff.

The earthquake changed everything

At the request of Partners in Health and the Republic of Haiti Ministry of Health, Jim agreed to design and build a new hospital, quickly and at reasonable cost. The new structure, now urgently needed, would be a teaching hospital but much larger in size, scope, and complexity than originally planned. It would have more capacity and more services, state-of-the-art equipment, and staffing and other support from local, national, and international health agencies.

A new model for philanthropy

For the project, Jim assembled a skilled crew of master plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and other specialized tradespeople, many of whom volunteered for the project. Against all logistical odds and fewer than three years later, University Hospital in Mirebalais (HUM) opened: modern, functional, beautiful. HUM is the largest employer in central Haiti and the largest solar-powered hospital in the world. Any country would be proud to claim it.

That experience changed dramatically Jim’s approach to philanthropy. With his skills and experience, he could offer more than financial support: He could build the kind of health-care facilities that were desperately needed in Haiti and elsewhere.

Building for other nonprofit client-partners

Soon after, Jim founded Build Health International, a nonprofit whose mission is to build for select nonprofit clients: respected and effective organizations working in the most impoverished regions of the world.

BHI remains one of a kind and in its first few years has taken on almost 40 major projects — many as builder, some as consultant — in Haiti, Liberia, Malawi, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone. Our current client-partners are Partners in Health, St. Boniface Haiti Foundation, Summits Education, and Haiti Projects.