Port au Prince, Haiti Day 3

Today I met with several local NGO’s here, who have the responsibility (with little resource) to coordinate the health and mental health responses in Haiti. Without a government, without buildings and infrastructure, with ongoing after shocks and an exodus of Haiti’s people, these local programs are heavily burdened and poorly supported. While the response and support of the international community is needed and important, it will not go on long enough. It never does. Each player, each NGO or government or country, chooses their territory and even with the best intentions, the agendas that often direct the work do not reflect the hearts, needs and spirit of the people.

Haiti’s future must be directed by the Haitian people. Yes, they will benefit from funds, training, expertise, and the support of the rest of the world, but the restoration of their home has to be their own work.

Each story I listen to carries certain similar themes–the horrible images, smells, sounds they heard for the longest days and nights they have lived. The despair at seeing so many dead children carried out of rubble, or at arriving to collapsed buildings and knowing that the people they are looking for never could have survived. Many people say “we will go crazy if we cannot talk about these things, move on from them, bury our dead, find work and contribute to Haiti’s future.” And–the images still consist of piles of cement where homes and schools once stood; the wind still carries an occasional scent of death; every park and open space is crammed with makeshift tents and people with nowhere to bath, defecate or rest. Reports of rape in the tent camps, of trafficking children who are now alone. Reminders everywhere. No safety.

As I observe, reflect, listen, I have to ask what the most meaningful way to help is. The immediate response is essential; long term, I am concerned at the volume of help that may eventually flood Haiti and drown out her own voice.

I do not have an answer now; I am sharing what most occupies my mind. I will be updating my website soon and offer more concrete ideas to support the local people. For now I am going to show up, shut up, and listen.

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