Saturday, January 06, 2007

Why Are Things So Bad in Haiti and What Can We Do About It?


I received a comment on my last post from Debbie who visits the Missionaries of Charity in the Delmas section of Port-au-Prince a couple of times a year. We are within walking distance from the MC’s and often attend their children’s Mass on Sunday. Debbie reports that they are able to get out less and less with each subsequent trip. For the last couple of years, Port-au-Prince and the entire country have been hit with an epidemic of kidnappings. I’ve written about this phenomenon in other posts. Many of these kidnappings are widely reported, especially if a foreigner is the victim. Whatever their cause, these kidnappings depress the number of visitors who visit Haiti. Who wants to be snatched anywhere much less in a country with at least a partially corrupt police force and judiciary?

The rise in kidnappings begs another question: why do things seem to be getting worse in Haiti? My husband John, who has been coming here for more than 25 years, says in terms the illness, malnutrition, condition of the streets, etc., he has never seen Haiti worse off. “Today is Haiti’s worst day,” he frequently says. Moreover, when we ask Haitians of all economic backgrounds what they think of current conditions, they confirm that it’s never been so bad. An attorney we know told us that none of her five adult children live in Haiti. In the slums, there are fewer people from international organizations to provide relief. hundreds of thousands of people who live in the slums are hungrier, sicker then ever, and now they have to dodge bullets, often unsuccessfully.

So why are things bad? Perhaps more importantly, how can conditions in Haiti improve? Undoubtedly, the answers to the second question have their roots in the first. I am going to spend the next few posts trying to explain why things are so bad and what can be done to improve them. I am a better critic than problem solver, especially when it comes to large-scale questions involving why a country isn’t functioning well. But I’ll give it a crack.

As a side note, this is the longest time that either John or I have been in Haiti, or even away from our hometown of Peoria. We’ve been here almost six months. On this trip, I’ve experienced Haiti mainly vicariously through John, as I’ve spent most of my time in the confines of our hotel caring for our three-year-old son, whose adoption is almost complete. John, as usual, has been working with the sick and poor. The last few weeks he has traveled into Cité Soleil and other slums with a mobile medical clinic. As I proceed with the broader question of how we can improve life for these people, I will post pictures that John has taken during his work. Hopefully, this will “keep it real” as the kids say. The people in these pictures are why the questions so urgently need answers and actions.

1 comment:

debbie said...

Maria--we have spent a lot of time after each trip talking about these very questions. During one of our early trips, I was very angry with God. "How could He allow this to happen? Why wasn't He taking care of this?" Praying in the Chapel that night with the Sisters, I very clearly heard God tell me, "I sent you."

One time as I was trying to say goodbye to a little one that had stolen my heart, in tears I asked our friend from Minnesota if I made any difference? Did I do anything worthwhile in the week we were there? I will always remember her response. She said "Debbie, you touched Jesus here. How can that EVER do be doing nothing?" Mother Teresa talked about how she tried touching lives one person at a time and not trying to change whole governments or societies. I try to remember that when I see how desperate the situation is in Haiti.

When we are leaving, the Sisters are so grateful for the help we gave and for our presence there, it is very humbling after seeing the selfless giving they do each and every day.

From what I've read in your blog, you and your husband are doing just that--we can only try to help one person at a time.

Thank you for listening to my rambling. People here do not understand how our hearts are left in Haiti and how anxious we are to hear any news of the people there we've come to care so much about.

If you see them at Sunday Mass, please say hello to Joyce & Dale and to the Sisters. Please assure them of our constant thoughts and prayers and that we are anxious to return to Haiti in April.