The more I read about the current conditions in Haiti, the more I am convinced that we need an alternative response to what is happening. Before the earthquake, Haiti was only functional due to its reliance on charity, and that functionality was usually a dysfunction of the normal path to progress.
I am not advocating that charity is not necessary at all, or that certain things should not be provided for free to the many who can’t afford anything, however the perpetual conditioning of the Haitian psyche that they should always expect free-giving or charity from others is the only way to solve or address their problem is very misleading to all indications of cracking the misery code of Haiti.
As I started to write this column, I had no idea that the Haitian government was thinking the same thing. It turns out that they have just released a statement indicating that they want the international food aid slows down in order to help the Haitian agriculture get back to its pre-quake form. President Preval even mentioned that he will bring this issue up with President Obama later this week, when they meet, whether this move is really for the benefit of the small peasants is a question that many are asking. Some believe that the Haitian President is only demanding that so that the elite class which controls food distribution within the country can get back to business as usual.
Slowing down food aid is one thing, changing the whole concept of relying on charity is a completely different ball game. Haiti, moving forward, cannot continue to operate in the same pre-quake paradigm, we must shift completely from everything we use to do, and the best way to start is by halting our reliance on free-giving from foreigners.
I hear the daily cries of fellow Haitians in desperate need for tents, food, medicines among other things, very few people are now advocating for jobs for all the victims. I understand the effect the quake had on the people, but we cannot let the sorrow of the destruction shapes our future. There are no textbooks on development that have proven that charity has ever helped a country progress. More than ever, Haiti needs to switch from the charity mentality to one of innovation and active civil participation.
The Haitian people must be put to work as soon as possible to help them built their country back better, and at the same time help them find a way to cope with life after the quake. There will come a day eventually, when all the international organization will not be able to provide free stuff to the Haitian population. There will come a moment, when Haitians whether or not they are ready must fend for themselves. And this reliance on international aid today could prove to be a great detriment to the future of the country.
We are raising, yet again, another generation, where they would expect charity to be the normal process of life. A generation that would not emphasize the value of their intellect, and strength; but instead one that would rely on others to do the hard thinking for them. If this is the new Haiti that we are going to build, I must warn that it won’t look much different than the Haiti before the quake.
Many people would find it absurd for anyone to call for an end to all the charities and goodwill going to Haiti, and some of them might have a point. I am not calling for a halt without an alternative, but it is important to stress that stopping the free giving must be a priority. We cannot afford to have the society getting too comfortable in expecting that this is going to be the way forward.
Even before the quake, we already have an expectation issue to deal with in Haiti. Now with all the surge of donations pouring into the country, it might turn out to be an uncontrollable situation the day the charity ends. We have a chance to change course now, and we must cease this moment, and do the right thing for the people.
The bleeding has coagulated for most. In the sense that most people are still not mourning the loss of loved ones. The psychological scars are still with them, but also is the harsh reality of life. Many people cannot put their head around the concept that life must continue, and the main reasons for that is because they have no idea how, and can’t contemplate when that will be.
The Haitian diaspora, in partnership with the government and the Haitian civil society must come together to draft an alternative plan forward. It cannot be a plan based on wishful thinking, but rather one based on reality, and concretization of practical ideas.
Often we hear the Haitian disapora calling foul due to the limitation based on them by the 1987 constitution, in this decisive moment, the diaspora needs to wake up and present concrete solution and how they will get involved in the country’s progression. They must not wait for an invitation, or for a foreign group to define their role. If they have the skills, and economic might to act, I simply see no reason what they are waiting on. It is time for the Haitian diaspora to become the alternative to the influx of foreign NGOs that have colonized the country. It is a process I termed “taking back our sovereignty”. If the diaspora is interested in a better Haiti, this is the time to provide their expertise without worrying about what the benefit for them will be. It is the perfect moment for the Haitian diaspora to invest in Haiti, in order to create a new generation of Haitians, one that is industrious and innovative.
Now, that flights to Haiti have been resumed, there is no excuse as to why there is not an influx of Haitian from the diaspora returning home. I am still reading a lot of debate and wishful thinking of what ought to be done, and most of the time criticism of who is not doing what. It would be best for the Haitian diaspora to fully get engaged in the engine of the country, and hopefully teach a fellow countryman a thing or two about the dignity there is in earning their own meal, rather than waiting on others to provide it to them.
The sooner, we eliminate our dependence on the charity of others, the sooner we will be able to rise up from the debris of January 12th, and build a new Haiti for future generations, where people will earn their dignity instead of always demand for it.