Scars of Haiti

The scars of Haiti’s past, present and future are evident every day. Everywhere. The ever present struggle to survive, the clawing to try and find a hold somewhere in this damaged, broken country. All you have to do is look around. Every time it rains you can look at the ocean and see murky waters where the rivers discharge into the sea. The brown is the sediment, and it generally means that yet another several inches of precious topsoil has been swept away into the sea. The incessant flooding is a weekly occurrence, visible as one drives down the road. Entire gardens are wiped out while poorly constructed irrigation and drainage canals succumb to the waters. In Gonaives, scars of the two 100+ year floods in the last six years has left mountains of dirt and garbage that were pulled out of streets and buildings downtown. The barren mountains surrounding the city clue us in to how this is possible. In fact, I have heard that 97% of country was deforested at one time. The current situation is not much better. Without trees on the mountains the water has nowhere to go but down. And fast. The power of nature over the people is without a doubt unfathomable. Roads are washed away, inhibiting a community’s ability to take so-and-so to the hospital, and the difficulty in passing the roads causes a definite strain in the economy. The simplest actions become daily laborious tasks. I know this is beginning to sound cliché, but each of these scars are a daily reality for the people here. Why is it that Haiti is struggling to survive? Why are they the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere? I say its because they can’t get a foothold, and there is never a guarantee of a bright future. Families often have to sell their livelihood away simply to survive for one more week. Just last week Bruce told us a story of a family who sold one of their Mango trees, which can easily bring in $60/year, for $30 so that the family could make it through a temporary drought. Long term planning and growth is not a term that people are familiar with. These stories are not uncommon either. Every day we hear of people that forfeit opportunity for survival. This disparity among a country so riddled with natural disaster can begin to explain why the economic situation is as grave as it is. John and I had the opportunity to spend our last evening in Gonaives speaking with several long-term residents of the area. They had much to say about the economic state of the country, the disparity of the current situation and the utter hopelessness. 60% of the country’s GDP comes from foreign aid. And without the proper communication between Governmental and Non-Governmental outside constituents, its a wonder anything gets done in this country. You could argue right now that nothing IS getting done. Regardless, they told us that essentially Haiti has no power over its fate, causing the Haitians with bright futures to look outside the country for work. Nobody wants to stay to help a country where every tiny step takes an eternity and no end to the road seems visible. It blew my mind to hear the locals talk to me about the hopelessness of the situation, and yet see their resilience to stay and try to do something. Anything. This couple has found a lot of success doing engineering/architect work and have resolved to stay in Gonaives to give back to the community. So there is still some good to be found here. At one point they told me to give them a solution to the country’s dire situation. I told them I would have to get back to them later. Currently in Port-au-Prince, the President has remained quiet and without plan while the foreign powers who have the power to do something are caught up talking about how to spend the money instead of actually spending it. It sounds like right now they are willing to put billions of dollars of money into rebuilding but are unwilling to invest in the clearing of rubble. Seems to me like it might be hard to have one without the other.

Anyway, I just wanted to share my reflections on the state of affairs here. I never would have imagined a situation so hopeless and I wanted to share with you all what has been on my mind for the past few days. Please pray for Haiti. And her people.

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