Haiti: Part 2 – Observations
When people ask me how my trip to Haiti was, if I’m being honest I tell them, “It sucked.”
Don’t get me wrong – the organization that I traveled with does great work and I feel fortunate to be affiliated with them. I’ll talk more about their work soon, but for now I just want to share my general impressions.
I’ve travelled to nearly 30 countries around the world – about half of those countries were developing countries where people endure poverty levels that don’t exist in the Western world.
Of all the countries that I have seen Haiti is the one most needing of help.
Whether people are living in mansions with personal assistants attending to their every whim, or they are starving on the streets with no clue where their next meal will come from, I believe that people are fundamentally the same. That was my big take away so far from travelling the world.
We all have similar desires, instincts and basic needs. We want to laugh, we do not want to worry about money and food and shelter, we want to feel loved and productive and respected, and we want to simultaneously feel unique and universal. This applies as much to Haitians as it does to Americans as it does to Africans and Asians and South Americans and everyone else.
The poverty I saw in Haiti was alarming. There were larger populations of homeless children living on the streets than I ever had seen. The streets were turned into literal landfills with discarded waste piling up in massive heaps. When the heaps got to be too large people were hired to wade through the trash (some barefoot) and move it to another location.
The number of hungry people is among the highest I have ever seen. One of the functions of the organization that I was working with is to provide milk to small children in need. When I spoke to one of the coordinators she told me that some of these kids will only have that one glass of milk and a small meal all day long with nothing else to eat.
Their national palace -the Haitian equivalent of America’s White House – was literally cracked in half from the earthquake in 2010. The infrastructure was in disrepair – I was literally sore after a long car ride from bumping up and down on the roads.
When we look at Haiti to begin addressing the problems, we have to understand their roots. Full disclosure – I am not an expert on Haitian politics or Haitian development. However I have asked numerous experts why Haiti has suffered so much and here were the most common answers:
- Government corruption
- Dependence upon NGOs
- Politicians using poverty as a political tool
- An unfortunate relationship to natural disasters and public health
What I took away from my trip to Haiti and what I’m hoping readers will take away: this is a country that needs our help. Such phenomenal poverty should not exist on earth. And yet, it does.
What sucked about my trip to Haiti was that I was forced to confront something incredibly painful: there are people -people exactly like you and I – on our planet living in crippling poverty, who suffer every single day from hunger, neglect, and hopelessness. And if we do nothing, nothing will change.
We have a responsibility to help. In my next article I’ll be discussing ways in which we can.