Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Well. Mebbe not quite the end.

A few remaining thoughts about Haiti.

I find myself, when people ask So. How was your trip? feeling a little conflicted.
I search my prodigious vocabulary for the appropriate adjectives.
And none come to mind, so I use a few lame, generic ones like Awesome, Amazing, Great.
And then I feel as filled with angst as I have ever been, because I spent a wonderful week in Haiti.
And then I got to come home.
While the Haitian people, who this was all about, have to stay there, with all of the poverty and hunger and ignorance and disease and corruption and crime that was there  before.
So then I am sad.

Let me tell you a few things that I learned, although I don't claim to have any answers.
The Haitian people are beaten down. Many of them are trying to better their lives, but so many factors are working against them. The earthquake and hurricanes just make a complicated situation worse.
Most Haitians see foreigners as a way to get something. I mentioned in an earlier post that any interaction with a Haitian will usually include, at some point, a request for something.
Let me tell you a story.

Late one afternoon, I decided to move the pile of topsoil that was in the vegetable garden over to a different area so that we could plant in the vacated space. I started filling up the wheelbarrow and lugging it to the other side of the yard. After a few trips, Junior, Jason's son, came over and helped me. I shoveled, he lugged. We had a lot of fun, laughing at each other and he teaching me the exact pronunciation of sa bon and a few other necessary Creole phrases. Creole is mostly a spoken language and Haitians are very picky about the pronunciation. I thought to myself How nice that he came to help.

About two thirds of the way through that pile of dirt, Junior started saying laptop and making typing actions with his fingers. I wasn't quite sure why he was saying it, so after a minute or so he gave up and we got back to work. A little while later, Lucien came over to talk to him and I asked Lucien to ask him why he was talking about a laptop. Lucien and Junior has a short conversation, in which I was not included, and that was it. I was none the wiser and we carried on and finished the job.

The next day, it dawned on me that Junior was asking me for a laptop and that Lucien probably read him the riot act for doing so. I was disappointed that there was more to Junior's kind act than met the eye. It wasn't the last time that I would be hit up for supplies by our Haitian workers, even though they live in a veritable lap of luxury compared to most people in the area.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about this problem. On the one hand, I understand why they do it. Their problems seem to be insurmountable; the fact is, there is no other way for them to get certain things. The clinic has to have almost all of their supplies sent from the US. Everything is expensive, from food to conveniences like toilet paper ($2 a roll), but many needed items are just not available for sale in Haiti. On the other hand, it does no good in the long run to just give handouts, because it intensifies their dependence.

So here's what I think.
Haiti is a beautiful country, in spite of the strife that has been visited on its mountains by natives and foreigners alike. Some of the best people in the world are in Haiti. People like those who are working at MamaBabyHaiti and Mercy Corps, who have long-term strategies to help the Haitian people towards financial independence. Please read Doctor Sarah's latest blog post here. If you have loved reading about MamaBabyHaiti, would you take a few minutes and go here to donate to the cause? Mercy Corps is also doing good work in the south part of Haiti and you can donate to them here. It doesn't have to be a large amount to make a difference, if we do it together.

Also, if you blog, I would love it if you could somehow pass this along. Feel free to copy any of my content on the topic. My contribution in Haiti was tiny, but together we could become a formidable force for good.
So that, someday, all of the babies in Haiti will be as fat and happy as Carjioly.

Thank you.

And don't forget the like button.


  1. I have enjoyed all your posts on Haiti. Its amazing what it is like there. I am sure they were so grateful for your help. That baby is so cute!

  2. I enjoyed all your Haiti posts! Your story is very similar to that of my friends who go there regularly.
    That is an adorable baby!

  3. What a beautiful people! And a beautiful post.

  4. Thank you for your post. Well said. May I make a request? The baby supplies we all helped with - blankets, diapers, formula, etc., could you tell us about how they were used? Maybe some pictures of the babies who were helped by the stuff you took there, if you have any? Thanks. (Or did you do that already, and I missed it?)

  5. Well said, Sue. Thanks for doing such a marvelous job of recounting our trip. Maybe I'll just publish your blog for my own scrapbook.

  6. Sue thank you for your beautiful perspective of Haiti. We hope you can come back to MamaBaby Haiti very soon and I promise to post pics of the ever-growing-at-a-freakishly-fast-rate garden very soon.

  7. Sue, thank you for your beautiful perspective of your time here with us in Haiti. We hope you can come and visit us again soon. Brenda, I'm one of the medical directors for MamaBaby Haiti where Sue spent here week volunteering and I wanted to tell you we gave out some of the formula yesterday to a starving baby and can get a picture to Sue soon. We have been giving the other baby items out sporadically as we have babies born here at our clinic. We will do our best to take pics and get them to Sue so she can get them to you. Thank you so very much for your donations, they will most definitely make a great difference!

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