At times, reading about the current situation in Haiti, one might get the impression that Haitians have given up on the country. Most of the Op-Ed pages of the mainstream media are being written by non-Haitians expressing their views on what Haiti’s reconstruction should look like, and who should lead it. Those foreigners, every now and then would paraphrase a native Haitian, but the deeper message is always about what their perception of Haiti ought to be, and how their own organization is relevant to solving the issues.
I am seeing an influx of new organizations being formed that are trying to be part of the solution. The energy to do something progressive and constructive for Haiti is there, but at the same time the mentality that one must start its own thing is also an impediment to real progress. At one point or another, we all have been a victim of that mentality, including myself.
Before the earthquake I founded Haiti 2015, which is a grassroots campaign for a just and prosperous Haiti. We had our launch in Haiti, just the week before the quake. The thinking behind Haiti 2015 was not so much to start a new organization, but to find the best way to work with as many grassroots organizations in Haiti as possible. I always say to people that Haiti 2015 is not another organization, but instead a concept that every organization can adopt in their mission statement.
Often the intention to do it ourselves can become a great handicap. As we proceed in making a difference in this new Haiti, we must be willing to put in practice the idea of working together. We must find a way to leave behind our ego, and work towards the betterment of our fellow countrymen.
The foreigners and friends of Haiti have played an important role in keeping our country afloat. Haiti today is seen or often described as the Republic of NGOs, most of the time in a negative connotation. What we usually fail to understand is the fact that most of those NGOs are filling the void left by Haitians, mostly Haitians outside of Haiti, who could have come back home and put their expertise at the disposal of their country.
A brief non-scientific observation of the relief effort in Haiti could lead us to conclude that the bulk of the money being raised for Haiti is done by non-Haitians. This should come as no surprise to anyone, given that most Haitians are barely making enough to live a decent life outside of Haiti. What is annoying is the constant criticism by fellow Haitians asking for accountability from the foreigners, and other Haitians organizations that are doing the heavy lifting in helping those in Haiti.
It is a nuisance, not because of the criticism, but mainly because it is a continuation of the pre-quake dialogue in Haitian circle. At this moment, I feel the best way to hold anyone accountable is for one to invest its whole into what’s really taking place in the country. I would prefer to see more concrete examples of what we are doing collectively as a people, besides the constant finger pointing. Yes, at the individual level, Haitians are doing what they can, whether it is continuing to send remittances back home or every now and then jump an airplane to Haiti to volunteer in community based project with some foreign NGOs. But what is really at heart of the matter right now is how we are going to come together as one people to finally assume our responsibility towards our country.
It seems that for most Haitians, we are still waiting on someone to give us permission to get involved or to come together and work from start to finish on a concrete project. We did not create the earthquake. Most of us are not directly responsible for the conditions caused by the earthquake. However, we must hold ourselves accountable for moving Haiti towards the path of a resurrection, which will lead to progress and better living conditions for all Haitians.
If we are waiting on the Haitian government to give us the green light, the light will probably stay red for a bit longer. We are assuming that by crying our heart out on social media website that corruption will come to an end in our country. If we are expecting foreign organizations to one day empower local grassroots Haitian organizations, then we must dreaming. What ought to be taking place at this moment is an unnerving participation from all Haitians regardless of where they are on this planet. We must become magnet for each other, and starting pulling toward the magnetic field, which is Haiti.
Yes, the Haitian diaspora is probably Haiti’s biggest asset right now, but that asset would never translate into real capital unless we decide to join our fellow compatriots in the field, and by joining I mean, we must start seeing Haiti as place to live now rather than a place we will stop by in transit or wait until we reach retirement age to go and enjoy its sunny weather.
As I am running out of space, the point here is, as Garry Pierre Pierre titled one of his articles after the quake “ This Time it’s Personal”, all Haitians must find a way to make Haiti’s reconstruction a personal matter. To do that, we don’t need to start a bunch of new organizations, or continue to criticize imperfect people for their flaws. Instead, we need to come together, and sometimes the best way to accomplish that feat is by acting towards our vision with people who share it, and as magnet attracts iron, we will be able to attract like-minded individuals and organizations to our cause.
When, we, Haitians, realize that we must own Haiti’s reconstruction plan, only then will we be able to ask precisely from our friends what we really need, not mainly what they are hoping to give us. And if we don’t make it our personal matter, then others will continue to exploit the situation to their own best advantage, which by the time we wake up from this nightmare, we would realize that nothing has changed at all when it comes to Haiti.