René Aubry ’99
Leading by Example
René Aubry ’99 was traveling through Argentina when he first heard about January’s devastating earthquake in Haiti. Aubry, a corporate banking specialist who moved to New York from Haiti when he was 7, checked his email the following day to find 1,000 messages asking how to help. “My friends wrote to me: ‘People are expecting you to do something,’” recalls Aubry, who had recently earned an M.P.A. from Harvard.
Three days after the earthquake, Aubry was back in New York spearheading a relief network that, among other things, convinced JetBlue to fly doctors to the Dominican Republic at no cost. From there, the medical personnel could travel to Port-au-Prince using a network Aubry helped establish. But in the blur of activity during that first week, Aubry realized he had yet to name his organization.
“At one point in her life, my mother [Denise] was homeless in Port-au-Prince,” Aubry explains. “She was living by the kindness of strangers. When I thought about the type of person I wanted to help the most, I realized it was someone just like her at that time, [someone] who lacked social safety nets.” The relief operation became known as Denise Haiti Disaster Relief.
In two months, Aubry’s team raised $30,000 and sent 50 doctors and nurses, along with 25,000 pounds of medical equipment, into Haiti. Now, he is working to launch a $100 million venture fund named Ciel Capital Partners, with the goal of creating knowledge-based jobs in Haiti.
Aubry knows the country has a long road ahead. “Haiti doesn’t need a one- or five-year business plan,” he says, “it needs a 50-year plan.”