A few months ago the editor of this newspaper had a conversation with an official working with the aid group CARE in Port-au-Prince. The official was an old Haiti hand who had volunteered his services to the earthquake ravaged country from his base in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
He is an old friend from the Peace Corps and a good guy. His organization and others had circulated this notion that it’s difficult to find Haitian-Americans willing to work in their homeland. He was quickly corrected and told that hundreds if not thousands were able and willing to lend their expertise to rebuild Haiti.
This self-fulfilling prophecy has been borne out since only a handful of Haitian-Americans have been hired in Haiti. Every day we receive phone calls from frustrated Haitian-Americans who don’t understand why they can’t get a job, even though they are advertised and they are highly qualified to fill these posts.
We don’t want to seem cynical, but these omnipotent organizations don’t need any meddlesome Haitian-American among their ranks. The United Nations has a policy of not hiring too many nationals from a country where they have a presence. For instance, they will send a Haitian in the Congo and send a Congolese to Haiti. The idea is that there is no visceral attachment and the work can be done professionally and not meddle into the affairs of that state. We believe that’s the policy these Non Governmental Organizations have adopted and it is unfortunate.
Bill Clinton has been touting all along that Haiti’s best asset is its diaspora. We’d like to know first of all, how many of the best and brightest from Haiti that he has on his staff and we are calling on him to pressure these organizations to hire more Haitian-Americans to position they clearly are competent and willing to do. It is is a travesty how things are being done by the international community. They are going it alone and then when things go bad, they will blame the Haitian government and then the diaspora, by extension. They will throw their hands up and then move on to the next crisis. It will be up to us to clean up the mess and it’s a huge mess.
There is a long road before we can even stand up, let alone walk or run. No single entity has the answers to Haiti’s myriad of problems and challenges. The NGOs need to seriously rethink their strategy of keeping Haitian-Americans out of the equation. We’ve a major stockholder and have the capacity to help move this mountain forward.
At the same time, Haitian-Americans need to get our act together and if necessary organize a strategic plan of action by forging strong alliances with our brothers and sisters in Haiti and come up with a solution. Ideally, the international community would be part of it, but if they insist on keeping us out, we have to take control of our own destiny. The reality is in the end, we’re the ones who will be there holding the bag after they’re all gone.
Let the organization begin.
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