First of all, thank you again for partnering with One Day's Wages and our partners in responding to the devastating earthquake in Haiti via our Haiti Relief & Rebuild Fund. Recently, I was invited to go to Haiti by one of our partners, World Concern, to assess the work that's been done so far and the strategy ahead in the long rebuilding efforts.
There's so much to share and as I'm still processing stuff, I'll share some brief reflections:
- Despite being glued to the TV during the days and weeks post quake, I was still stunned by what I saw in Haiti during my time – and this was 2 months after the quake. I can't even imagine what it must have been like during my time there.
- EVERYONE was impacted by the earthquake. You can sense that there is a collective grief and a desire for a collective hope. Over couple days, we interviewed 8 random women and 5 of them had lost at least one of their children.
While the need of food, water, and medicine are no longer as urgent as in the initial weeks, there is nevertheless an ongoing need. Having said that, two growing needs (in my opinion) are homes and jobs. There was a 70%+ unemployment rate even before the earthquake and I've heard that the figure has grown to 80%+ since the quake. These are really complex situations with no easy answers.
It's also rainy season and hurricane season usually arrives in June. I've never prayed for weather because it just seems so silly but I found myself praying like crazy for a non-eventful hurricane year this year (like last year). Yes, there is still a need for tents but rebuilding homes need to happen sooner than later.
During my time there, I was encouraged by the work of our partner, World Concern – an organization that has been in Haiti since 1978 and have come alongside about 125,000 Haitians. Their 100+ staff is comprised of local Haitians who understand their context and culture. For obvious reasons, couple ex-pats were flown with expertise in disaster response and it was so important because so many of their local staff were going through their personal trauma.
I was able to witness the launch of their “cash for work” program. By giving some basic structure, they give local Haitians jobs to remove rubble, empowerment to make decisions with their community, and eventually start re-building some homes in their neighborhoods. It's so important not to perpetuate a dependency mindset but to instead, empower the Haitians and in doing so, extend a level of respect, responsibility, and dignity. How important is this? Make sure you check out the video below and you'll see why this is such an important part of the rebuilding efforts.
I returned back to the States realizing that “we” can't rebuilt Haiti for Haitians. They need to do that for themselves and while this quake is unlike anything they've ever experienced before, we can certainly come alongside them. Yes, there is a heavy presence of nearly a 1000 NGOs in Haiti and while there's both healthy and unhealthy relief work going on, the story should be about Haitians. I was inspired by the Haitians. I was inspired by the churches in Haiti. I was inspired by many of the young women and men that wanted to have a voice in rebuilding their country. Yes, the essentials are necessary – food, water, medicine, housing – but the greatest asset might indeed be something called opportunity.
Only Haitians can rebuild Haiti but I'm hoping to share with you in the coming weeks how we can come alongside them in the next step of the rebuilding efforts.
Here are some pictures from our trip. Write your questions in the comments section and I'll do my best to answer them.