As a nation, we tend to focus more on the bad than to promote the good. We usually like to agree with people who are different than us than to compromise with our own. We are a proud nation, but time after time we fail to acknowledge those amongst us who should be our living heroes. We look towards outsiders to be our savior, rather than try learning from each other. Those, my dear friends are some of the simplest observations about most of us, Haitians, which have prevented us for even providing to ourselves even when there is no storm.
This week, I want to dedicate my column to the Haitian role models who have stepped up to the plate to serve their own people. There are many of them out there, some I only saw in photographs, and have no idea of their names, others have been referred to me by friends, and a few who I personally know.
I also want to acknowledge the compassion and generosity of the international community, for without it, the victims of the earthquake would have been in worst conditions today. From the bottom of my heart, and on behalf of all Haitians, we thank them. However, moving forward, it is imperative that we start sharing the good stories about ourselves to the outside world. It is time that we start recognizing our own for their bravery, generosity, integrity, resolved, and selfless service.
Immediately after the quake, before the international media came on the scene, it was all Haitians helping Haitians, like in the case of Gabrielle Vincent of Sonje Ayiti, who have been helping people getting medical assistance, nutrition among other things. Many others were digging with their bare hands to pull out friends, family members, even strangers under the debris. In the photographs, I saw young school children risking their own lives to pull out school mates, we saw co-workers trying to help each other, and we saw Haitian people leaning on Haitian shoulders to mourn the loss of loved ones. Yes, at the beginning, we were the only ones present for ourselves, and at the end, we would probably be the only ones left to take care of ourselves.
There is a time to be grateful of what others have given us, but there is definitely a time to recognize our own strength. The story of Carl Telemaque, a young Haitian living in New York, who went to Haiti right after the quake to contribute to the relief effort is one that would make us understand it was not only foreigners flying to Haiti after the quake to serve their people. The U.S news media, which is so obsessed about seeing and listening themselves, could make one asks where are the Haitians?
A friend of mine, Charnie Monexe who lives in the U.S Virgin Islands, went to Haiti with a group of concerned citizens from the Virgin Islands to help out the best way that she could. I know of countless other Haitian professionals who took leave from work just to provide their expertise to their own people.
There are not enough words to describe the togetherness of the Haitians at home. Still today, many people are just relying on their neighbors for some of the basic necessities. They have not seen the light of the Haitian government, or that of any foreigners. The only help they’re getting are coming straight up from their fellow Haitian compatriots.
I always believed that we had more good Haitians amongst us than those who are only about doing ill to the country. The response to the earthquake by the Haitian people only reaffirmed that belief. It is important that we continue to acknowledge and highlight the people who are doing exceptional work among us. They do not only deserve of our praise, but also of all the rewards that we can offer them.
In a time, when many do not see how the Haitians will move on from this tragedy, the average Haitian citizens refuse to give up on their lives. Together, they are praying, eating, sleeping, getting wet in the rain, and yet they refuse to give up. They may not have the financial resources or the technical know-how, but their resiliency to deal with this latest adversity is refusing to let them give up. They might not know how or when this country will get back to its feet, but yet they understand the importance to hold on to each other.
A country that they often called the poorest of the Hemisphere, a people neglected for so long by so many, a nation’s history that has been only a footnote in many historical books, has taught the world a valuable lesson, as much as it needs the contribution of its foreign friends, it is nonetheless a country of people with decent heart.
Haiti could have easily been turned upside down after the quake, the poorest of the poor could have let their hopelessness guided their actions, but instead we saw them lining up seeking shelters, food, among other things for their family. The poorest of the poor could have made this country ungovernable, but rather they decided to let the rain socked them in the middle of the night. They could have easily turned into savages and devouring one another, but instead we witnessed them demanding a fair chance at life through their peaceful demonstrations.
If you are surprised by the gut, intellect, savvy, compassion, patience, altruism of the Haitian people, mainly, it is because you have never given a chance to see Haitians in action, or you have been reading the wrong history books about the country. As tragic as the earthquake has been, the few positives that we hope could come out of it should be that most Haitians are willing to play their role in society, and given a chance they might succeed beyond imagination.
On a last note, as you surf the web or pick up your local newspaper, for each foreigner that you see helping in Haiti, know that there are probably twenty native Haitians doing more with far less. I am grateful by the generosity of all foreigners to my fellow compatriots, but I am very proud by the selfless service and peaceful interactions of all my fellow Haitians. We are a people destined to do wonders, and when we get to understand the might of our strength, Haiti will not only progress, but it will never be the same ever again.