I was in Haiti over the summer, doing rebuilding/construction volunteer work at an orphanage in the seaside town of Jacmel. It was seven months after the devastating earthquake that smashed the island a year ago today—and had you told me then that the quake had happened just before I arrived, I would have believed you. Several months later, and all of my friends and connections I made while there make it clear that there hasn’t been a lot of forward progress. I know you know all this from the news—today’s anniversary, declared a national day of mourning in Haiti, is on every channel. One foundation worker in Port-au-Prince tweeted last night “New Theory: There are actually only 3 people in Haiti. Sean Penn, Bill Clinton, and Wyclef” and it is true, familiar faces get a lot of air time, and also bring a lot of international attention—which is good.
International help, actual help that makes it to the people, would be better…but it is rare. Billions of dollars were pledged to Haiti’s recovery from nations across the globe, but a tiny percentage of that has ever actually been given (including the US not getting pledged dollars down to the island). Money doesn’t solve every problem, but it would go a long way toward rebuilding homes (800,000 people are still living in desperate circumstances in tent villages), drinking water and sanitation systems (the cholera epidemic is still killing people who needn’t perish—and wouldn’t perish with access to safe water), and getting kids back into schools. Sure, the government would still be a mess (the recent elections, considered by almost all Haitians to have been a corrupt failure, have still not declared results…and most citizens know the results won’t represent them), but the people…the faces that aren’t movie stars or ex-presidents…might move back toward some semblance of normalcy. Ton upon cubic ton of rubble still lies unmoved; bodies still remain buried inside pancaked buildings; disease, unrest, rape, and assault still plague the tent cities where ten or more people are shoved into tiny canvas rooms; but still there is some joy. Music, laughter, dance, a community profoundly bound by one impossible circumstance after another—spending time outside, together, playing soccer in the street, braiding hair, celebrating birthdays, hundreds of merchants singing together in the market…Haiti has not spent a year crying, but has spent a year living and the living is mostly hard.
It can, and will, get better with our continued support. Private sector donations are the only ones making it through in great numbers. There are more than 10,000 NGOs (Non-Government Organizations—charities and foundations) working in Haiti—some far more effectively than others. Surely there is one that inspires you to help. Think about some of these, or use them as a jumping off point for your own commitment to healing.
The organization with whom I volunteered, who gives 100% of funds to construction crews and materials for orphanages in Port-au-Prince and Jacmel, is Hearts With Haiti.
Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres has treated more than 358,000 people in Haiti, performed more than 16,570 surgeries, and delivered more than 15,100 babies since the earthquake.
In addition to work in many other nations, the Rainbow World Fund has represented the international LGBT community outstandingly, and since the earthquake, has provided ongoing funding of “victory gardens” in Haiti to help fight against poverty and malnutrition, and sent thousands of pounds of supplies to help earthquake survivors rebuild their lives.
US Aid is the nation’s response to international emergency zones, and their Help Haiti programs cover a wide range of efforts, from rebuilding to medicine to investing in infrastructure.
The Clinton Foundation Haiti Fund has raised millions to build a better Haiti.
J/P HRO (J/P Haitian Relief Organization) is the group headed by Sean Penn, cutting through the bureaucratic BS and getting help directly to the people.
Here is a great map, showing where a great many of the NGOs are based and the work they are doing throughout Haiti—click around and be inspired.