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Haiti – One Year Later

January 10, 2011

It has been almost one year since a massive earthquake struck Haiti.  The earthquake killed over 230,000 people and decimated a country that was already hurting.  Sadly, now that it has been almost a year, the country is no longer in the news and most of the world has moved on with their lives.  It is sad how short our attention spans can be.  When a disaster first strikes we love to show off how generous we are.  We donate time and money to every organization under the sun asking for it.  We feel good about giving a few dollars here and there in the aftermath of a disaster.  Then we pat ourselves on the back and go back to life as normal as if nothing has changed.

But recovery is never quick and easy.  It is a long, hard road that requires determination and endurance.  And we have a duty to help.  We have been blessed with much in our country and instead of holding onto everything we have as if it is something we deserve.  We should instead use those blessings to help those who have not had the opportunities we have been given.

BUT, and this is big, we cannot look down on the local populations as if they are somehow less than we are.  We cannot believe that we know what is best for them or that we understand what they are going through and know how best to solve their problems.  Because, let’s be honest, we don’t have a clue and our track record to date of “helping” fix countries is not that great.  Why do we think the local population does not know how to help themselves?  Or why do we think they don’t want to help themselves?

So what do we do?  We bring in teams of construction crews to build houses instead of employing locals to do with the work.  We bring in our contractors to direct them instead of bringing in contractors to teach local contractors best building practices and international standards.  We run coordination and cluster meetings to get all NGOs and organizations together to figure out how to fix the problems, but we don’t invite locals.  The UN and large NGOs are basically running the country at this point with no buy in or direction from the local population.

But there is hope.  There are organizations in Haiti that are empowering the local population and there are Haitians that are trying to bring about lasting change in their country.  They believe in themselves and we should too.

I will leave you with some pictures I took from my first trip to Haiti last year:

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