Who’s really helping Haiti?

Tomorrow my team and I will be on a plane bound for Port-au-Prince. Probably the only country in the world which has a notorious last name: the poorest country in the western hemisphere. If in the past Haiti was the glory of the French colonies and the first independent nation in Latin America in 1804, nowadays the country faces the challenge of rebuilding a shattered and impoverished nation.

We can all remember how the response to the January 2010 earthquake was sluggish, chaotic and insufficient. Since then many countries around the world have pledged to assist Haiti, but the lack of coordination has so far halted the so-called transformation of the country and the establishment of a functioning and efficient government.

It has been two years since the earthquake, but I feel that little has changed in Haiti for the better although I’ve never been there. As I read and learn more about the history of the country, I realize that by no means this is the first tragedy that the country has ever faced. I was astonished to know that for almost 30 years, until 1986, the Haitian population suffered under a brutal dictatorship which greatly contributed to the impoverishment of Haiti. On top of that, I realized that the rampant poverty of Haiti has been one of the best funding sources of its elite and corrupt government.  They transformed the misery of the slums of Port-au-Prince into their best exporting product, managing to get millions of dollars from several governments around the word. This happened in the past and certainly is happening right now, in the aftermath of the earthquake. I believe that the government has not done much with all the money it got, and it seems that Haiti is solely run by the hundreds and hundreds of NGOs scattered all over the country. Sometimes, they might be no better than the government: there is corruption, and lack of coordination and planning.

Realizing this harsh reality, I wonder:  so, after all, is it worth donating money to Haii? Traveling there? Is it possible to change anything at all? The only answer I can find is yes, it is indeed possible to change something if we decide to do our best to make a difference. NGOs might not be perfect organizations, but I’m sure that right now there are thousands of people honestly concerned about the harsh reality of the Haitian population. They are willing to sacrifice and work hard not to teach Haiti what it should do, but instead temporarily assist its development to strengthen the self-empowerment of Haiti’s government, public institutions, and above all, its people. This is how I see our trip to Haiti: more than building houses, this is a unique opportunity to meet and interact with Haitians, forming bonds of friendship, cooperation and learning. I’m really looking forward to travelling to Haiti on Wednesday, and I have been doing my best to get there prepared: besides studying French, I’ve been trying to learn a few sentences in Haitian Creole. A great start to an unforgettable experience down in Jacmel, Haiti!!

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