It’s been 4 months since I visited Haiti. For some reason it is still vivid and fresh on my mind. I continue to think about the state of the country and what needs to be accomplished. Better yet, what needs to be provided so it can begin to transform. Obviously, it’s no overnight change and would require the government to be on the same page. Haiti just had their first election in the past 4 years but I don’t know how much change will come with the newly elected.
When we were pulling up to the village of Letant, the people were putting clothes on. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but after we handed out 110 bags of clothes and shoes, a bag for each family, I realized they were putting clothes on for us. Americans come in to their village with clothes, don’t spend any time with them, take pictures of the people and their shocking living conditions and then flee before it gets “out of hand”. Is there more to it that I didn’t see? Of course, because I only spent a week there. But I can’t help but think about seeing 8 boats and 2 nets for a village of 110 families while the main trade for a village like this would be the fish. If these families could sell more fish, they would be able to buy things they need to begin to increase their quality of life.
These seven staples are essential for change in third-world countries.
1. Clean water – there are many illnesses that Americans don’t have issues with simply because of clean water. Organizations like charity:water and Haiti Water are putting deeper wells in areas so locals can access the clean water, but what if you live a couple miles from the nearest well? You may make one trip per day and carry as much as you can, so what is compromised with the lack of water? Clean bodies, clean dishes, the list could go on.
2. Safety of a house – when living under a tarp you are exposed. Your family is made open to the elements of the weather but also accessible to thieves while you’re getting water or even worse. Without four walls and a simple lock on your door, there is absolutely no security for your family. Organizations like New Story Charity and Love a Child are building wood frame or concrete houses and moving families into houses for the first time since the January 2010 earthquake.
3. Transportation – if you live in the countryside, being a merchant and selling your goods is difficult because you’re only around other low-income customers. With a better bus system that has space for goods, new merchants could take their business to different areas of the country.
4. Jobs/Teaching – Until people can get their business off the ground, there needs to be a stimulus, but I’m thinking it is something like a manufacturing plant as long as the conditions are monitored. In addition, people need the ability to learn trades that don’t yet exist in Haiti. With better transportation, learning centers to obtain certifications can be built right off of major bus lines. Another critical skill that needs to be taught is financial management. Without this understanding, the country will continue to resemble America’s low-income housing areas. Mission of Hope is building a technical school while Love a Child providing life-skills training as well as they built a marketplace for locals to sell.
5. Tools – I grew up hearing the phrase, “fish for a man and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” The issue is handouts will only sustain a family for a short period of time. This got me thinking about tools that could be provided. The first tool I would love to be able to distribute are fishing nets for the villages on lakes or by the water. Another tool is a 5 gallon bucket on an industrial dolly with big wheels, thick axel and a handle to pull over rough terrain so the children that walk miles to get water can come back with a full bucket. Again, Love a Child is creating these types of 3rd World tools.
6. Assistance – From what I’ve seen in American Section 8 housing, food stamps and government issued health care, people learn the system to get as much as they can without any reason to pay it back. It creates complacency and strikes the desire to reach for a better life. There’s a point that if you make more that $X then you lose all of those government provided privileges so there really is no push to excel. If there could be a different sliding scale for food, medical and housing assistance then possibly it wouldn’t be abused. I don’t know how to go about this change, but currently organizations provide all for free to anyone and everyone. Possibly this assistance gate would be able to be implemented after the above 5 needs were met.
7. Hope – Without a focal point, a standard of living to raise up to, it’s difficult to strive for change when the possibilities are unknown or unrealistic. Just as marketing works so well in America, the desire for change needs to be marketed and shown as an achievable possibility. Haiti is built on Christianity and voodoo. Haitians obviously want change and both are providing good and bad change. But I think most people are looking at their current circumstances. Three things that need to be spread throughout the country are a focus for a potential new lifestyle, a desire to strive for that new life and an understanding the God doesn’t just want to provide for the day-by-day. He’s not just a provider. He offers a relationship but that’s a difficult thing to find when organizations are continuously providing for your family. It’s easy to gravitate towards God only being a provider when there are many more roles and names He has. While I struggle with calling God “my Provider”, this is nearly the only name third-world countries know Him by.
I don’t have all of the answers but I do have a desire to see a change in Haiti. I see so many efforts towards non-reciprocating solutions but I see one-time solutions being provided that can’t provide ongoing solutions. I would love to be part of Haiti’s response.