My brother Brad, the co-author of this blog, has been in Haiti for the last week working with a few different families to rebuild their lives after they lost their husbands in the earthquake that shattered the Caribbean nation on January 12, 2010.
His involvement has been with the group Haiti Sak Plen. You can read about their goals and accomplishments on their website www.haitisakplen.com. Many donors were generous enough to pay for the tools and materials needed to work on homes that have fallen.
Although many families will be left without spouses, children, or other family members, it has been the pleasure of Haiti Sak Plen to serve them. They’ve worked on over 10 different projects and given local Haitians an opportunity that many from the US will not understand. Although Presidents and hopeful presidents complain about our unemployment numbers, our problems are miniscule compared to the unemployment problems of the Haitians.
Luckily I was fortunate enough to participate in a trip to Haiti where we offered relief to families that had suffered as a result of the earthquake. My trip was in April of 2010, which was a few months after the earthquake which occurred in January. Unfortunately there are lasting effects of the earthquake that might never get better. Even after two years the country is still in bad shape and much of the reconstruction has yet to begin. Our goal was to give the Haitian people hope in the future and a bright outlook on what is to come.
I recall a conversation that I had with Puchon almost two years ago. He is a local 28 year old Haitian who was helping us with the construction work on these homes. Our conversation went something like this…
Me: So are you married or do you have a girlfriend?
Puchon: No man, I don’t have a wife or a girlfriend.
Me: Why not man? You are a good looking guy, and I’m sure that you have had opportunities.
Puchon: Yeah, I’ve had opportuniites, the only problem is that I’m 28 and I live with my parents. I have no job and no prospects of getting a job. I’m very lucky that I can put food in my stomach each day. How on Earth do you think that I would be able to provide for a wife, or especially for children.
This was one of the more humbling conversations that I’ve ever had in my life. I take for granted the opportunity that we have in America, and I know that the Haitians don’t even stand a chance compared to our blessings.
I better understand why orphanages are overflowing with children in countries like Haiti. People have children, and they know that they won’t be able to care for them. As a result they end up dropping them off at orphanages hoping that their children might have a brighter future.
Sometimes we live in small bubbles and don’t understand how fortunate we are. I’ve traveled to many poor countries and lived in very poor circumstances. I spent almost two years amongst the people of Paraguay in South America. I’m here to tell you that Paraguay is an amazing place to live compared to Haiti. This might come as a shocker to you, but it is true. This just goes to show how bad life can be for these people.
The interesting thing about the children is that they are happy. I never saw one throw a fit about not being able to play his x-box, and nobody fought over the Wii. I know that it would be really difficult to take my children to Haiti someday, but it would be great to give them an experience where they can learn to appreciate what they have. I know some parents tell their children…”You better eat that food or someone in Africa will starve.” Obviously parents are trying to teach their children the principle of gratitude, but showing it can mean so much more.
I recall one visit to Mexico when we rented a van in Ensendada and drove to see the Bufadora. I remember getting lost in one neighborhood looking for the highway. My mother-in-law asked her youngest son what he thought about the houses and the neighborhood. His only response was, “I wish that I could go and give them some money.” It was a priceless moment of teaching children to be grateful for what they have. Not is it always that giving money is the best option, but knowing that he was willing to care for them and wished that their situations could improve.
Running a Business In Haiti
This experience also taught me about the importance of not having a corrupt government.
On one occasion I was speaking with a gentleman who runs and orphanage. He explained to me that having a business in Haiti is rather difficult.
He gave me this example: Let’s say you’re going in to purchase a drivers license. Of course they aren’t going to require you to take any tests or anything. The sign on the wall at the DMV says “Drivers License: $2 USD.” Sounds simple enough. When you arrive to pay the $2 they simply say “For you it is going to cost $200.” Nobody stops them from requesting the bribe, and you won’t get a drivers license unless you heed their bribe. Essentially if they know that you have the money, then they are going to ask for it. This type of corruption chokes businesses because it makes slim margins even slimmer.
From the crumbling buildings there are lessons to be learned. I’ll be forever grateful for my experience in Haiti. I encourage you to either contribute financially, or to work with some type of group to experience something like I did. Even if you don’t have anything to contribute to the cause financially, give your heart. Pray for the people who are less fortunate.
If you would like to contribute you can donate on the haitisakplen website. If you have interest in helping on a more intimate level, please contact Brad at Bradleyjai@hotmail.com.