Our last full day in Haiti from Kendra....
Hey friends! Our morning started off with a full breakfast and an even greater discussion. We had the opportunity to read Kim Lamberty's article called The Art of Accompaniment. This article was really special because it took our experience this week to the next level from discussions to published work. We discussed a lot of how aid organizations really impact those struggling with extreme poverty by providing alternatives for them to grow themselves into a better situation.
It was really great having Kim be present to go over her article with us. She helped us go deeper into how these relationships really lead to long term results with the poor. On top of that, relating her work in Just Haiti provided another experience. For those of you reading, I really recommend reading this article. It just may change your life!
After the discussion, team Haiti once again piled into our beloved van going off to the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) here in Port-au-Prince. There, we learned a lot about the incredible work that CRS is doing here in Haiti. From education to health care, CRS plays a major role in supporting Haiti. After asking a plethora of solid questions we once again piled into our beloved white van.
After the CRS presentation, we moved on to the national Haitian museum. There we had the opportunity to see the anchor from Christopher Columbus's Santa Maria.... Crazy right? This stop was particularly special because we were able to experience the epic story of the Haitian people. A band of slaves that rose up to overthrow the French army of 40,000 people; that was the birth of Haiti. The anchor was special, but what was more worthwhile was seeing the strength of Haitians throughout the week correlate in its presence in their history
On top of the rich history lesson, the museum also offered an amazing restaurant. It was a bittersweet moment being at the fancy, westernized restaurant but we were also enjoying our conversations and leading into a momentum of discussions of what now.
From there it was off to the Fair Trade Cooperative. This special store is run by an amazing woman who meets individually with each artisan to make sure that she is buying their goods at a price that is able for them to live off of. On top of ensuring fair payment for the hard work that the artisans put into the products the cooperative also ensures that they are making products that will sell. Over all, this business model is a great way to empower local artists and is one that I am happy to put my money and support behind.
This theme of empowerment is extremely important to our work this week in Haiti. It is one thing to offer handouts to the poor but in the long run that isn't sustainable. The current approach to Haiti which is giving substantial amounts of aid from donating clothing to putting up telephone poles to even emergency relief programs are just putting a band aid on a much larger issue: Poverty. It is an epidemic that can only be treated by providing options for the poor. The people of Haiti are rich with resources. They are overflowing with assets from land to human capital. The people want to work and know how to help themselves but do not have the connections to do so. The communities, like all communities, possess leaders who need empowerment to help themselves.
The aid agencies are in a better position than the government to meet the needs of the people, mostly due to money. These vulnerable people do not need our charity but rather they need us to listen. The Haitian people know what Haiti needs but due to their situations they are not in the place to help themselves.
These words come from a place of experience. I, too, have been guilty of sending money to philanthropies that I am not sure how much money is trickling to the people at the bottom.
I'm no expert, but what I can say is share what I have seen. I have seen the American flag on the shirt of a poor farmer. I have learned first hand the complicated process of growing coffee beans. I have spent time with the children of these communities. I have experienced their hospitality, received their generosity, but most of all I have felt their love. A love that persists through all. I have seen the resilience and strength of an entire population.
These people, these friends, deserve better and it starts with us. So now I invite you my friends, to ask us. Ask us about this wonderful, beautiful, life changing experience so that together we can make a better future for Haiti. Also, check out Just Haiti, because they are an organization that is actually doing something worth supporting.