What do leadership of health services in Haiti and leadership of a restaurant in a hip Boston neighborhood have in common? Conor Shapiro, President and CEO of St. Boniface Haiti Foundation, talks with Jefferson Macklin, business manager and partner of Boston’s Bar Mezzana, about empathy, leadership and how their organizations help spur economic activity and community revitalization. Both men cite empathy they learned from world travel as the basis for their leadership style. Shapiro’s interactions with Haitian patients informs the philanthropic approach of the Foundation. “Walking out to a patient’s home and seeing how their journey to our hospital affects the kind of care they receive… For me the constant reminder to listen to the patients and understand where they’re coming from has been incredibly formative,” he says. Macklin had a similar experience during his time serving in the military in the Middle East and Asia. “Anytime you see people in dire straits that you have never experienced, it tends to wake you up a little bit. That’s the reason why people should travel more and see the world – once you realize how good we have it, you start to realize how fortunate we are and that you need to give back,” he asserts.
Shapiro discusses philanthropy’s role in the overwhelming problems facing Haiti, where 90% of the population is underserved and the country is in a perpetual poverty trap. “If people knew just how difficult the situation was… and they knew that there was something they could do about that, and they also knew that basically all people are people…,” he believes that Americans would give generously. Macklin, who earned a Bronze Star for his service in Desert Storm, sees parallels between leading troops to leading restaurants. His restaurant in the Ink Block section of Boston’s South End is a social and economic hub for the neighborhood. “As restaurant owners, between your employees, suppliers, investors, guests, you touch a lot of people and have an impact on a lot of people,” he notes. He includes strategies in his business model that support immigrants and local charitable causes and help his workers earn a living wage, live locally, and grow with the business. “To me the base root of hospitality and philanthropy is empathy. I’m someone that really believes in empathy and I think the world could use a lot more of it,” says Macklin.
Let this conversation inspire you to travel more, find deeper empathy and serve communities in need.
Resources and Mentions:
- No Kid Hungry (nokidhungry.org): Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is ending child hunger in America by ensuring all children get the healthy food they need, every day.
- Root Cause Coalition: The Root Cause Coalition is a national, member-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the root causes of health disparities by focusing on hunger and other social determinants leading to nationwide epidemic of preventable chronic health conditions.
- Conor Shapiro, MPH, became President and CEO at St. Boniface Haiti Foundation in 2011, leading the organization’s operations in Haiti and the United States. Under his tenure, St. Boniface Hospital has emerged as the leading referral hospital in southern Haiti. Shapiro has overseen the expansion of St. Boniface Hospital to include new buildings dedicated to spinal cord injury, maternal and neonatal health, surgery, an expanded laboratory, and a soon to be constructed infectious disease center. During this time, the St. Boniface Haiti Foundation has transformed into a leading NGO in Haiti and has partnered with USAID, the CDC, the GE Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, among others. He holds a Masters Degree in Public Health from Boston University and over 13 years of experience with SBHF. During his first 7 years with SBHF, Mr. Shapiro worked from Fond des Blancs in various capacities, including as Director General of the St. Boniface Hospital. In 2013, Mr. Shapiro was awarded the Young Alumni Achievement Award by the Boston University School of Public Health in recognition of his commitment to advancing development in Haiti.
- St. Boniface Haiti Foundation is dedicated to providing essential health services to the people of Southern Haiti, especially the most vulnerable. They are committed to building a comprehensive, efficient, and resilient health system that provides high quality care. SBHF believes that ensuring access to life-saving and life-changing health services is a critical component to building strong and productive communities. Working in partnership with local communities, SBHF wants to transform Haiti’s southern peninsula by ensuring that all people, regardless of their ability to pay, have access to high-quality, compassionate health care. By improving health, they seek to reduce unnecessary suffering and improve the standard of living for the entire region. SBHF’s success is proving that quality health care can be a sustainable reality in Haiti and a model for health care systems in resource-poor settings around the world.
- Jefferson Macklin is business manager and partner of Bar Mezzana in Boston’s South End. He oversees all of business operations, including finance, accounting, legal, marketing, public relations, and human resources. He was previously the president and COO of Barbara Lynch Gruppo for eight years. Jefferson graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point with a BS in Engineering. Soon after, he served as an Airborne and Ranger-qualified Combat Engineer Platoon Leader in the 101st Airborne Division in Desert Storm, receiving the Bronze Star for his actions. In 1995, Jefferson received his MBA from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. While earning his MBA, Jefferson was also able to pursue his love for music with a job as an Atlantic Records college representative. Upon graduation, Jefferson moved to Boston and began working as a management consultant at Gemini Consulting. Subsequently, he served as Chief Operations Officer at two venture-backed start-ups: first at Rock.com and then later at DMOD (Digital Media On Demand). Then for three years he was a band manager of various indie rock bands signed to both indie and major labels. In 2007, he became the COO of Chef Barbara Lynch’s growing company. Jefferson played an integral role in expanding the Gruppo from four entities and 90 employees to a $20M company of eight unique culinary concepts and over 250 employees. In recognition of his leadership and vision, Jefferson was promoted to President & Chief Operating Officer in 2012.
- Bar Mezzana is owned by Colin and Heather Lynch along with partner Jefferson Macklin in Boston’s South End neighborhood. After more than 30 years of operating Barbara Lynch’s internationally renowned restaurants, the team’s spirited journey brings the simplicity and beauty of coastal Italian cooking to a sleek, vibrant space at 360 Harrison Avenue. Aperol spritzes, an award-winning crudo menu, and a career steeped in pasta making are highlighted by genuine, warm service and hospitality. Led by Heather Lynch and Beverage Director Ryan Lotz, Bar Mezzana’s wine program showcases a thoughtfully curated selection of varietals to pair with Chef Lynch’s food, with both widely loved bottles and lesser-known (but equally enjoyable) discoveries. The cocktail list displays a similar synergy with the food. Largely inspired by the seasons and traditional Italian cocktails, the list includes what the team deems the perfect Negroni, the perfect Spritz, a handful of seasonal cocktails, and a selection of amari.
- MoreThanWords empowers youth who are in foster care, court-involved, homeless or out of school to take charge of their lives by taking charge of a business. MTW believes that when system-involved youth are challenged with authentic and increasing responsibilities in a business setting and are given high expectations and a culture of support, they can and will address personal barriers to success, create concrete action plans for their lives, and become contributing members of society. All of the youth at MTW are 16-24 and have compounding risk factors and are in need of an empowering life experience to help them envision and equip themselves for their transition into a successful, meaningful, and self-sufficient adulthood.