Monday, May 14, 2007

snapshot of haiti

It's not a great shot, but it is one of my favorites. The group of homes in the background gives just a glimpse into the reality of housing in Haiti. Driving through Port-au-Prince, we saw dozens of these mountainside neighborhoods, most twenty times larger than this one, home to thousands - if not hundreds of thousands - of Haitians seeking a better life than the one they left in the country. According to Dr. Morquette, World Relief's Country Director in Haiti, it is illegal to build houses on these hills. If it rains for 3-4 days without stopping, they could all be washed away. But laws are hardly enforced - more often than they used to be, but still a far cry from where they could be - so the likelihood of more houses not being built on these hills is slim.

Like many third world countries, Haiti is incredibly poor. Much of the nation barely scrapes by, surviving on what little income they can earn from the informal market. Clothing, paintings, hot food, toiletries, and produce line the sidewalks, walls, and street corners. UN tanks, trucks and soldiers maintain a fragile peace, cracking down on gang violence and instability. Haitians have a gesture, which looks like brushing hands and shrugging shoulders. I forget the phrase in Kreyol that goes along with it, perhaps pa faut moi - it's not my fault - but it's a gesture that feels like the ultimate resignation: It's not my fault, I can't do anything about it, nor is it my responsibility to change things. Reminds me of Americans and makes me think, "There's nothing new under the sun."


Thank goodness I work for a relief and development organization! World Relief Haiti operates five solid programs on a very limited budget, educating youth on the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS; training and equipping churches and community based organizations to better care for orphans and vulnerable children; giving small loans (the equivalent of $90 USD) to women in community banking groups; vaccinating and weighing young children and educating their mothers on basic health and nutrition strategies to combat high infant mortality rates and promote general health; and bringing local church pastors together to learn how to better meet the needs of their communities.

The most compelling thing? All of the staff in Haiti are Haitian and several of them - at least 10-20% of the staff - could be working elsewhere in Haiti, Canada, Europe or the US, making more money and living far more comfortably and safely than they currently live in Port-au-Prince. But they're not. Instead they're working in Haiti, despite overwhelming odds, insecurity, and near-anarchy, practically giving their lives for the poor, the orphans, and the widows in their country. It really puts things into perspective - I am reminded why I'm here, and what really matters in life.

6 comments:

Kristy said...

Dearest Lynnae,

Thank you for sharing your life and wanderings with me. I too am a wonderer and let me tell you it can be tough at times, especially being married and having to maintain a household. Whew, that is my biggest challenge. :)
I'm so glad you had the chance to go to Haiti. I'm sure it was difficult yet wonderful at the same time.
Please keep Kaylie in your prayers, she is "loving the world and all it has to offer right now". Basically the fun and she says GOd is not fun. We know this is not true but she is living lukewarm and its tough to watch. I'm going to tell her about your blog, maybe she'll get into convo with you???
Wish I could join your wanderings with World Relief. Enjoy this time of your life.
Grace and Peace,
Kristy

LynnaeEtta said...

Kristy,

If I respond to you here, will you know that I responded? I'm new to the blogging world, so I'm still feeling my way through it.

Thank you very much for your note. I will certainly be praying for Kaylie, and if she wants to talk I'm always willing! What is she up to these days?

Peace,
Lynnae

Ben said...

Lynnae,

I just checked your blog for the first time and have enjoyed reading about your views of Haiti. I have missed having a Lynnae commentary on life the past year or so.

I'm doing a long term high school substitute teaching job and right now I am teaching about the UNDP, Millennium Development Goals and Debt Relief. I am pretty sure I am deviating from the curriculum a little bit... or a lot....but I think these issues are really important. I thought you might be encouraged to hear that high school students are actually being challenged to think beyond their city limits.

Oh yeah, and I'm moving... to Honduras... in August.

Chau,
Ben

Joel said...

nay rules

LynnaeEtta said...

Joel rocks my socks off. :)

Alayna said...

FYI Lynnae, comments that people post on here are visible to EVERYONE who wants to read them. There might be some setting you can change so we can make our comments private or public. Some blogs offer that option, some don't.

tq,
Alayna