For those of you who might not be on Facebook, or who might not be on our Mailchimp update, this is an update for you all!
Ryan and I had a crazy day on Tuesday, even though we were in the USA. We were on the phone on and off with both supporters checking in on our friends to our Haitian friends giving us updates. Thank you for your concern and care for the people of Haiti. It is truly heartwarming.
The area we work in directly has not been affected with too many issues. However, many of our partner organizations/partners are really struggling right now. There are many people without homes, access to food or water and more. It has been truly heart breaking to be so far away from the island we call “home” in many ways and to feel so helpless.
We are still assessing the damage up the mountains and within our own home, as well as with our friends all over the island. We are collecting funds through our website, Konbit Haiti and these funds will go to the needs as Ryan and our Haitian director, Dan, see fit.
We want to take this time to encourage you who might be jaded from mis-information you have heard over the years about giving to Haiti. It breaks our hearts to think that people might not give because of some illusion that Haitians have stolen money donated in the past, particularly in 2010. As I (Steph) have been going to doctors recently, I have heard it, too. Even the most educated and enlightened surgeons somehow think that Haitians are so corrupt to steal from the magic million dollar money pot and leave their fellow man hungry and poor.
Here’s the truth: Haitians have seen very little of the money donated to various organizations in 2010. You send a text and the Red Cross gets your money or you donate online to a larger organization- it goes toward various things. While I am not intending to throw organizations under the bus, I do want to make sure you readers of this blog understand that Haiti is really not to blame for the misuse of funds. We are, in many ways. I obviously don’t mean Konbit Haiti, but I do mean the American public’s lack of systems which hold groups accountable. You see, for many groups, especially those associated with the government, their primary goal is to look out for our government, not Haiti’s. This is obvious in many ways, but one of them is through USAID and their donations of food for Haiti. If you donated money to bring food to Haiti, you actually donated money so USAID could purchase rice and stimulate the US’ rice producing economy. This rice debacle has greatly impacted Haiti, putting many small farmers out of business in Haiti. Honestly, this is just one small example. When you donate your money, it goes toward programs that often times have not been vetted through a Haitian development system or a Haitian board, but through a bunch of westerners who want to use your money to experiment with a new technology or to purchase a large amount from a “friend” or business associate in another part of the world. Very little gets into the hands of grassroots Haitian run organizations who can make a huge impact on their communities. Believe it or not, no matter how great the plan sounds, if this plan doesn’t have the Haitian seal of approval or the Haitian buy-in then you can expect that project to not be successful. Just like we wouldn’t want someone from outside of our culture telling us how to fix our problems, Haitians don’t want that either.
We have all seen our share of photos of people in need in Haiti. But, what you might not see as often is the tremendous amount of tenacity and force these people have. They put their families and communities first in a way we Americans could only HOPE to do. They truly think through the most sustainable option for their community when given the opportunity to do so. They sadly have been trained that if they don’t agree with the western way of doing things that they will be denied financing, but we can change this together! Let’s let Haitians make the tough choices, collaborating with us to make sure we can offer the best choices possible.
No organization is perfect, and we have certainly made our fair share of mistakes. There is a way to not get it wrong though: let’s donate to and advocate for those organizations that are on the ground, listening to Haitians, being run by Haitians and being open to being wrong/changing. I would love to point you in their direction if you need some advice. ;) Please pray for Haiti, but please also remember that these are people with feelings and hearts and minds and care for their nation far beyond what we can understand or know.