Friday, June 26, 2009

Bob Corbett

Bob Corbett is a retired professor from Webster University, who has a long time interest and involvement in Haiti. He has a very comprehensive website on all things Haitian and also moderates a list serve about Haiti, to which I subscribe.

People from all over the world and with all kinds of ideas about Haiti post to this list. I have posted twice, most recently about Father Gerry Jean-Juste.

Quite often, spirited debates break out on the list. Recently, people have been debating how best to help Haiti. Once inawhile, Bob posts on the list, and I thought what he had to say was worth thinking about. It follows below.

I agree fully that there are innumerable decent Haitian people.
That's not what's at issue. The issue is: How do people change the
reality of THEIR Haiti?

I recall a very imporant learning experience for me. I
won't identify the person or place for fear I would jeapordize things in that
area. But, it was way back in Duvalier days. I was deeply impressed
with the work in one area and offered to provide some financial aid. The
Haitian leader of that group told me, "No thank you." I was quite
astonished. Every other place people just wanted anything I might be able
to offer. This leader told me:

1. If I take money from you and it gets out, then the "gwo neg"
in the area will wonder what we are up to, want their share, and we will be in

2. Soon, YOU will be suggesting we do this or that....

Thanks, Bob, but no thanks.

Eventually I got this leader to agree to allow me to give his group
anenvelop each month with cash, no questions ever asked, and no mention of
it. That ended up helping what is today a rather successful group, but
part of that success is DEFINITELY related to this leader's understanding of the
need to protect such information.

The problems in Haiti are not a lack of decent and hard working and
ambitious PEOPLE. It's leadership. There is a political class which
is a complete sycophant upon the people. There is an economic class which
is a complete sycophant upon the masses. There is a force -- it used to be
army, now it is police or thugs, who enforce the will of the powerful and keep
the masses in conditions of shocking poverty and powerless over their own

Okay, there may be a period of history here or there that I've over
exaggerated the disgustingness of leadership, but not by much.

Again, given the hard reality of the PRESENT, I think the best bet that
people of good will have in helping Haiti and Haitians is to forget "Haiti" as a
nation, and go to the villages, the more remote the better, and go SMALL.

Help the market women who need some funds for an initial investment,
help the farmer who needs a hoe or gwo bef or seed. Help the community
that needs water, help the community organization that needs a local store
ordispensary of medicines. Help the local community that needs a school
building or a teacher.

Those are things that many of us in the outside world can DO. We
can either do it alone, or we can bond with a small group of others and get
things moving.

At the same time, go small. Try NOT to be noticed. Try not
to attract the sychophants who will use power and force to steal the

THAT HAITI, the Haiti of the real people, the non powerful, the
politically insignificant, they are the hope of the future, be they in the slums
of the city or the more rural areas of tiny villages.

And pardon me if I step on toes here, but get the hell out of the
SPIRITUAL lives of the Haitian people. They can do that quite well
themselves. They need material help and medical help and educational help,
they don't need outside help with their spiritual lives.

Bob Corbett


Marcia Kocak said...


Thanks for sharing this Maria...good post!

LA CAt said...

This is amazing. I am working in collaboration with a Haitian musical Artist, Johnny Jean Joseph. I do everything I can to help him and keep our project moving forward. Your information is very helpful. Thank you.

Unknown said...

I feel like Bob is family;the way he describes Haiti is my definition of Haiti. A Haiti struggling with a kleptocratic government but where love and life burst from everyone!