As I sit here in Haiti, on my native country’s day of celebrating its independence, I drift into thought. The United States was born in a spirit of adventure; a need to explore when first coming to the unsettled new frontier. After realizing their motherland wanted to control them from afar, a historical battle for freedom ensued. Our nation’s flag and all it represents, was bathed in the blood of brave men and women who would rather die for freedom than live under tyranny.
As I ponder that, I realize that I too, sit in a land bought with blood for freedom. Haiti’s claim to fame is to be the only black nation of slaves to successfully revolt against their captors and drive them out and establish their own democracy.
But that democracy has fallen on hard times. The current election process has been tainted with scandal, cheating, bribery and more. The nation is currently without official leadership. In the midst of it all, the Haitian people suffer economically as the gourde has fallen in value significantly. When I first came here 6 years ago, the exchange rate was 38 to 1; it is now 62 to 1. This has made life extremely difficult for Haitians. The infrastructure of Haiti is so broken; nations are starting to lose the confidence needed for continued investment. The once desperate business and political leaders willing to make any concession for assistance during the post-earthquake era has now faded back into greed as before.
But it is easy to see the paths of these two nations have gone very differently.
In Haiti, life is hard. Many think that because Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere everything is very inexpensive. Not so. Those hotdogs you grilled for the 4th were at the most $2 per pack. Here almost $4! As you waited for it to get dark enough to shoot off fireworks at 9 o’clock, Haiti was waiting for the electric to come so they can do a few things they can only do in the cool of the evening that requires light or run a small fan so they can sleep. You see, you learn how to manage power here when you only get a few hours of it. In the countryside you may only get it for 2 hours twice per week.
While Americans were playing in pools, waterslides, shooting water guns and running through sprinklers, the majority of Haiti was packing 5 gallon buckets to a community well for cooking and for showers. Only people well off, have houses with roof tanks to take a shower via traditional plumbing. Most dip a bowl and pour water on them in a dark space from the bucket, lather up and use the bowl to rinse off. This evening when you brush your teeth, you will rinse your brush out in your sink under your faucet. We can’t do that here because it isn’t safe. We have to buy every drop of water we use to drink and shower.
While we go from place to place in our SUV’s and $30,000 vehicles, our two boys travelled to Bon Repos yesterday spending 25 gourdes (about 40 cents) to catch tap-taps (Haitian public transportation; small trucks with benches in the bed) to go 5 miles to pick up some bananas. I almost forgot; in a city of over 2 million, that 5 miles and back took 4 hours.
As your evening ended, I am certain that many were dreading the thought of their 3-day weekend ending along with the prospect of having to get back to work on Tuesday. But did you know that 80% of Haitians don’t have gainful employment to go to tomorrow morning? In fact, most will get up and spend what little they have to buy some commodity to sell to another Haitian just like themselves, just to have some purpose. It seems that everyone sells items to each other and money simply trades hands. A woman near us sells food on the street that she and 3 other ladies work all day to prepare. She opens around 6 pm and will sell until she runs out around midnight or so. She sells these enormous calm she’ll boxes of food for 150 gourdes (about $2.50). As I have purchased food here, there is no way she is making much of anything in profit.
I say all this not to make anyone feel bad or grateful. I say it to open our eyes to the reality of people all over the world who live similarly every single day. As you celebrate our nations independence know that Jesus said “to whom much is given, much is required”. With all the blessing granted, we should become intentionally involved in the alleviation of suffering for others. The people of Haiti, and especially the children need you.
This is only a small glimpse into Haitian life. Most orphans have it much worse.
HH4H provides food, shelter and education for orphans in Haiti. That is what we do.
While they have little of this world’s pleasures; what they have in abundance is love.
This is why we do what we do.
Please help us by donating today at www.hh4h.net