My recent time in Haiti has given me a bit of a paradigm shift. It’s really easy to go an visit a place like Haiti and come up with a list of things that “they” need to do to turn things around and build a strong village, community, city or country. It’s easy to be a sideline coach or a backseat driver. Often we are even willing to put together teams to go in and fix what we see as the problems which need to be fixed. For years much of missions and humanitarian aid has been a go and fix mentality…but is this really how we need to do this? Guys, just ask your wife if she wants you to fix her “problems” which she often tries to tell you about. You laugh, just as I, because we know that this is not what she always needs or wants. There are times when we need to just slow down, listen, identify, listen, study, listen, analyze, listen and then help formulate a solution together that is practical and effective. Many times the situation is much more complex than we first perceived. The past five days have given me a much different perspective to the opportunities and challenges in Haiti. Recovery is a fragile balance between good for today and good for the future.
In the hours, days, weeks and months following the redefining event in Haiti on January 12th, 2010, aid began to flood into the country of Haiti. This aid was needed and motivated by the magnitude of the tragedy and suffering. It’s from a world of people and governments desiring to help. Prior to January 12, 2010, Haiti was one of if not the poorest country in the northern hemisphere. A country who’s entire GDP (gross domestic product) was only about 7 billion. Not exactly a thriving economy but one that was working to improve. The average worker made about 85 cents (American conversion) per DAY. Yes, this is less than we pay for a single cup of coffee or bottle of Coke per day. There were doctors, builders and those buying and selling in commerce. But today, being a doctor, a pharmacist, a merchant or business owner…is a more difficult thing than before. You ask why? Think about this…if you are a doctor, how many patients come to see you when medical treatment is still being given for free to anyone who desires it. If you are a pharmacist, who is going to buy medicine from you when the relief organizations are giving it away for free. If you are a merchant, who is going to buy from you if the food, tools and materials needed for living are once again being given for free to those who ask. If you’re a business owner, how long can you survive with no business? How long can you keep your employees when there is nothing for them to do and you have no income? These are the very real and very tough questions that must be asked. We met business owners who have gone over 6 months without an order and heard stories of doctors who are being asked to continue to give free treatments to all patients nearly a year after the earthquake. How is the doctor to continue to buy supplies or pay their staff?
Just a few more thoughts to consider. Currently the NGO’s are purchasing the majority of their supplies from outside of Haiti and bringing them into the country. Up to 80% of the money being spent by the UN is going to staff and workers who are not Haitian. There are NGO’s who are going outside the country to hire middle manager positions rather than hire the people of Haiti. 60% of the funding for the Haitian government is being provided by other countries, yet it’s not being spent on goods and services within Haiti or provided by Haitians.
If small and medium businesses are the backbone of the economy of a country then the current good deeds in Haiti have turned bad. The opportunity to rebuild Haiti and provide for its people is huge but there must be a shift in thinking and procedures. It is time that everyone, who has a stake in the future of Haiti, come together and map a plan to lasting and sustainable recovery. The government, the utilities, the communications industry, the NGO’s, the small/medium businesses, the medical professionals, the education professionals and others must come together and learn about each other and what goods and services they can obtain from one another. It’s time that the NGO’s and government organizations make a commitment to spend a minimum of 80% of their budget inside the borders of Haiti. It’s time that Haitian businesses and workers are turned to first for supplying goods and services. It’s time that marketplace leaders outside of Haiti step up and partner with one or two Haitian business people so as to help them grow and expand their business. By growing these as well as new businesses we can begin to break the chains of poverty one person at a time…one community at a time. Providing a job not only provides the ability feed, clothe and protect a family…it restores dignity and hope. Teaching a skill provides long term independence and builds valuable contributing citizens.
For the good of the people of Haiti, its time that we teach trades, agriculture and business skills…and its time to start spending the aid dollars within the boarders of Haiti. The good intentions that have turned bad must once again be turned back for good.
As I said last week, Haiti has the incredible opportunity for a “do-over”. The opportunity to build a strong infrastructure, a strong government a strong education program…a healthy nation with a strong and growing economy. IT IS A CHOICE…are we going to help build a dependent nation or a skilled nation with pride and strength…or does that scare the nations of the world?
Are we truly sharing all of the love and freedom that Christ offers?
(Remember…this blog is just my rambling thoughts and opinions which are not necessarily endorsed by anyone else.)