So often, we (that is, American citizens) get caught up in the messages of mainstream media that position Haiti as a helpless, hopeless country desolated by natural disasters and extreme poverty. It is portrayed as a country completely dependent on benevolent, foreign organizations, whose future is solely determined by the amount of externally sourced relief it is given day-to-day, year-to-year.
This is not what Help for Haiti is about. We don’t go to Haiti to give people goods, we go to teach them how to make those goods and then sell them, to generate profit and build business. This is why we were delighted to see National Geographic publish an article in November 2015, “Showing Haiti on its Own Terms.” This article challenges our societal stream of consciousness by highlighting the promising work of young Haitian photographers that are determined to show a different Haiti than the one that most people imagine. It also provides insight into Haiti’s economic status- given by those that were actually born and raised there.
This article brings to light the various ways in which more privileged countries- the U.S., France, etc.- have showered Haiti with well-intentioned benevolence and compassion, only to reveal that, on a grand scale, we haven’t really done much to help at all. Let’s take a look at what we have “accomplished” in the last few decades:
– Over the years we’ve sent countless short-term and long-term missionaries, as well as thousands of nongovernmental organizations to Haiti, but with no wide-scale, measurable impact.
– In the 1990’s we fought to lower the rice tariffs from fifty percent to three percent, only to find that, by allowing cheap rice to flood into Haiti, we drove local farmers into poverty.
– We sent over 100 million dollars in international aid to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, much of which went right back to U.S. companies and organizations.
All of these issues pile on top of the internal problems of Haiti. These involve unlawful government, a poorly educated general public, and an ignorance of the potential of certain industries in Haiti. In particular, many Haitians are uninformed of their country’s mining sector, of which foreign companies are edging to drill into to compete for the estimated twenty billion dollars in gold and copper lying beneath the surface of Haiti.
This information certainly does position Haiti as helpless and hopeless, however the reason we so appreciate the National Geographic article is that it also portrays the inner strength and willpower of the Haitian people. They are a people of incredible capacity and strength. Haiti has a voice and it is the voice of the people, not the politicians. It will ring loud and clear when countries like ours start to really listen to them. Haiti is capable of much more than we think it is. Those young photographers have proven this through their images, just as we have through our labors.
This article gives us the truth of the current state in Haiti, but it also gives us hope. For the future of Haiti, and for the future endeavors of those seeking to provide help without causing more suffering. We hope that God transforms this into an opportunity for us to spread our “help without hurting” approach, so that soon there will be a measurable, positive impact across the entirety of the country.
And as always, we appreciate your support as we push our initiatives to feed, educate and employ the youth in northern Haiti.
Grateful of your support,
The Help for Haiti Team
The full article, “Showing Haiti on Its Own Terms,” can be read here.