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Using hands-on philanthropy to bring Haiti relief

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Ansara, a construction magnate who retired early, brings a rare combination of personal wealth, practical skills, deep experience and – perhaps rarest of all – a willingness to share in Haiti's suffering.

He needs all those qualities in his current volunteer role with Partners in Health (PIH), a nonprofit that runs 60 hospitals in 12 countries. Ansara is director of construction for PIH's Mirebalais Hospital, Haiti's largest postquake building project.

With 320 beds, Mirebalais Hospital will be Haiti's biggest, at least until the city hospital in Port-au-Prince is rebuilt, which may take years. At Mirebalais, Haitians will have access to basic health services as well as specialty surgeries never before available to them.

To open Mirebalais by November 2011, Ansara puts in 90-hour workweeks, sometimes via laptop and phone from Essex, north of Boston, where he raises four adopted teenagers with his wife, Karen.

Otherwise he's in Haiti, where he lives with an erratic water pump, routine power outages, and a nearby river that makes travel impossible after heavy rains.

Ansara doesn't have to live that way. He's plenty wealthy, even after giving away more than $18 million since he began the process of selling his business, Shawmut Construction, to his employees in 1997.

Still, he puts on no airs. He drives a 2010 Ford Focus. He arrives for a cafe interview in jeans and an untucked plaid shirt.

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