Two years after the catastrophic earthquake that brought the eyes of the world to the tiny Caribbean country of Haiti, there are striking differences in the perception and reality that is the current state of life in Haiti. If you ask the average person who has not experienced Haiti for themselves (and some who have) what they know about Haiti, you would probably get an ear-ful of negativity: impoverished, dirty, unhealthy, disease-ridden, lack, corrupt, dangerous...hopeless. But stay a little longer, dig a little deeper, look a little more intently, and a different picture begins to emerge. It's a well kept secret that those of us who have come and fallen in love with this country and it's people ache for the rest of the world to know...
While the majority of large NGO's have pulled out, either because "their work is done" or due to an increase in the threat of random violence, individuals and smaller organizations, many with pre-earthquake ties to Haiti (like myself), are coming back. After being away for a 4 month stint in the US, I'm excited by what I have seen, and the people i have met in my first 2 weeks back.
The piles of rubble that once were buildings, while still visible, are fewer and farther between. So, too, are the tent cities. Improvements and additions have been made to the roads and airport. Schools have become accessible to more children, thanks to initiatives proposed by the new president this year. These are all encouraging signs, but even more encouraging are the Haitians I have had the privilege to meet, who, one by one are beginning to plant the seeds of change in their own country.
There's Rosaline, who grew up in an orphanage, and longs to create a more loving and nurturing environment for the next generation of children who will grow up with little or no knowledge of their biological families. Doudine wants to become an early childhood teacher. She is eager to learn about best practices and resists the status quo by doing independent online (free) courses in behavior management and child development. Ramone is a physical therapist who works at an orphanage specializing in the care of children with disabilities. When I told him I taught in an inclusive preschool classroom, he was ready to put me to work with the now blended orphanage population ASAP. :) He is doing research on laws in hopes of introducing a disabilities act, which current does not exist in Haiti. And then there are the parents/caregivers of the patients at the rehab clinic I have been visiting this week...despite the prognosis or severity of disability, they are willing to travel long distances, sometimes hours, multiple times per week to see that their loved one gets the therapy they need. They show up consistently, ask questions, follow instructions, and as result their child is able to do things they've never done before. This is a good illustration of the mindset that is beginning to emerge here and it consistent with the country I have come to know and love. So the next time you come across a story about Haiti, I hope you will see it through different eyes.
Good things are happening in Haiti!
Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious-the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. (Philippians 4:8 MSG)