How GoDaddy's Parsons Is Creating a Self-Sustaining Community in Haiti

Bob Parsons is often known for his shameless and gregarious self-promotion, both for himself and for his domain and hosting company, GoDaddy. (Read Bob Parsons's IP profile.) But for several years now, Parsons, the founder and CEO of the company, has been shining his philanthropic light on the people of Haiti, and there are signs that it's starting to pay off in a big way.

Since the earthquake that devastated the already-impoverished Caribbean island, GoDaddy has been asking customers to "Round up and give to Hope for Haiti," with the funds raised from this effort going to the non-profit Hope for Haiti. To date, the company has raised more than $500,000. In addition, the Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation, which was just founded in 2011, has donated nearly $4 million to relief efforts. And at least one community is being transformed as a result.

The focus of Parsons's donations in recent years has been on making improvements at two schools in Les Cayes, which came as a result of a visit to the area in 2011. Parsons recognized the need for better schools and education in the community. He discovered that students could go only through sixth grade, which limited their chances of having a better life quite significantly. That was when Parsons decided to make a five-year, $2.5 million commitment to expand the schools.

The results of that commitment have been quite significant. The funding has provided the community with its first high school, featuring new classrooms. The money has been able to provide the schools with supplies and teacher salaries as well. There are even plans to expand classes to the 13th grade by 2017, which will mean that, for the first time, students will be able to look forward to completing their basic education and possibly going on to college. During a visit to the area in late March 2013, Bob and Renee Parsons actually helped lay the foundation for several additional classrooms.

In a foundation press release, Parsons said, "When you say you're going to do something — you do it. We made a promise to those kids and that community, and I was going to make sure we kept it. You can see the difference, not only in the surroundings, but also in their faces. You can tell they are committed to do their best to make this a great place to go to school. Education is the key and I look forward to them moving on to finish college." (See GoDaddy Cares' IP profile.)

The schools are unique in a number of other ways that could make a huge difference for the surrounding community. The money has made the school self-sustaining, to the point that a garden provides food for use in the school lunch program, which often is the only meal many students get each day. Also, even though the community doesn't have power, the school now uses solar panels to generate its own electricity. The funding also provided the school with an art program that teaches children how to use recyclable materials, and the school now has soccer teams equipped with brand-new uniforms and shoes.

It's not just children who are benefiting from the Parsons Foundation's philanthropy. A new adult education program is teaching hundreds of adults how to read and write. A first-of-its-kind public health education and access program provides health-care services, including emergency support room medical specialists. There's also a health education and prevention component. On his latest trip to Haiti, Parsons announced that he would fund a home for the elderly after seeing the home where dozens of seniors live after being abandoned by their families.