… even before the earthquake, and the cholera epidemic, and the hurricane.
I traveled to Haiti twice in 2007 to research the marketing angle for a grant that my organization was later awarded. It was the first time I’d been “to the field” anywhere other than Niger, so the comparisons between the two places were frequently on my mind. They are both francophone countries, and I was happy to be able to employ my heavily Africanized French in this non-African locale.
Niger is the poorest country in the world; Haiti is the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. But whereas a big reason that Niger is poor is due to the lack of natural resources, that wasn’t always the case in Haiti. The country is green and lush.
And the location is practically a stone’s-throw away for American tourists looking for warm Caribbean beaches.
But the land has been stripped and eroded, the resources abused and mismanaged, and the people left with little to sustain them. They lack fertile land to grow healthy food, and clean water to keep them safe from disease.
They lack adequate shelter to keep them safe from storms and floods.
They live with memories of violence and oppression. These raised garden beds are symbolically housed in discarded tires — an attempt to change the association from a tool of torture (tires were thrown over political dissidents and set ablaze) to a symbol of hope.
And it isn’t easy to get help to these people. The roads were by far the most treacherous I have ever seen. A 30-minute flight in a prop plane would have taken 8 hours by land, and the time we did go by land we had to repair two flat tires along the way. But even the airplane doesn’t have a real runway or landing strip. We were praying we wouldn’t hit a goat — or a child.
The people of Haiti were wonderful and do not deserve the year they’ve endured. Many organizations are trying to help the country recover, but if the roads made aid so hard to deliver back then, I can’t imagine what a challenge that has to be post-quake. And dirty water makes cholera all the more fruitful. And hurricanes don’t help replenish the soil.
I just pray that moms like this one keep striving to learn how to feed and care for their babies, and keep wearing their “I heart Jesus” t-shirt (just a bonus!).