A Nation of Resiliency, Faith, and Family
For many years, Haiti has been defined by its misfortune and is often perceived as a hopeless nation. However, our work with locals in Haiti has proven otherwise, providing a clear view of the country – its potential and the perseverance of the people.
Together with our local partner, Haiti Christian Schools (HCS), we are imparting knowledge into young hearts and minds in Haiti. Students are being trained in skills that translate into sustainable jobs in their community, while teachers are receiving the training necessary to teach with excellence. The efforts of this partnership are planting seeds to improve the condition of the nation and establishing a foundation for lasting, generational change.
Partners International sat with PI Partnership Managers and advocates for HCS; Yalexis Barr and Wendy Thiessen, to discuss our work in the country. We talked about Haiti’s history, reputation, and the impact of supporting locals.
What does it mean to be an advocate for Partners International in Haiti?
WT: There are a lot of people that need advocating for and as a Partners representative, I am advocating not only for Haiti but for all of our partnerships all over the world who desperately need the resources and marketing and information that Partners provides. Even through social media, it’s huge. I am proud to be advocating for our partners in Haiti.
YB: Partners International Canada does not just transfer funds to the field for partners overseas to do their work, we also engage and support their ministry so they can grow and become better. This may look like capacity-building, training, advising them to establish a board of directors and helping to implement better guidelines to improve their organization. All these things add value. It’s not just money, there are so many ways that we assist our partners and they are very appreciative.
Can you give us an update on the current situation in Haiti?
WT: There has been a lot of manifestations and there are angry people in Haiti. Resources are scarce and when you have more people than you have resources you get the rioting and people that are desperate. There is a desperation in Haiti right now and that is the reason we sent out the appeal. The food prices are triple what they normally are, the gas prices are more than double, the dollar has been overinflated and people can’t afford to eat. It’s not even a matter of them not being able to afford to buy a car — they literally can’t afford to eat. We felt that we really needed to advocate for our partner in Haiti. I heard that so far Partners was able to raise a good amount of funds, which is fantastic. That money is going to help expand our food program temporarily. It will expand to our high school students and feed our teachers in addition to the kids who were already receiving a meal from the school. This will guarantee them at least one meal a day and alleviate some of the responsibility and stress of families who are having a tough time feeding their kids. We want to participate and come alongside them.
For years Haiti has received international aid and it seems little has changed — what would you say to people who feel Haiti is a lost cause?
YB: I would explain to people that there is so much complexity to the development work in Haiti and many variables that have affected the country – and are the reasons why Haiti hasn’t totally developed. One of the main reasons for this was: to gain its independence, Haiti had to pay reparations to France for more than a hundred years and spent 80% of its profits on paying this debt. The numbers today would probably be about 22 billion dollars that they had to pay in total and for this reason Haiti missed out during the industrial revolution, and couldn’t invest in stronger institutions or education. This plays a very big role in the country’s situation.
Another reason is the geography of the country. Haiti is very vulnerable to natural disasters. They are on a geological fault. They’re prone to earthquakes but they are also in an area that is prone to hurricanes which is another factor that is challenging for the country and doesn’t allow them to move forward.
Another factor that has hindered Haiti is the intervention of some development organizations and people over time. Haiti has been one of the biggest recipients of foreign aid, but unfortunately this has morphed into an industry. Those that really need the help are not getting it because some people come to the country and found a way to make money off Haiti through these development businesses. Haiti is not a lost cause — we all need to do a better job with helping our neighbour.
How could one do a “better job” with helping our neighbour (Haiti)?
WT: There is a ton of potential in Haiti. We need to be supporting more locals and grassroots organizations because then we know where the money is going. If you are sending money to governments or big groups that don’t have locals they are working with on the ground then absolutely — there is a loss of control because they are not working with the locals and those who are already making things work. We are coming alongside them.
What is the impact of a donation to our partner in Haiti?
YB: When you’re donating to our partner in Haiti and supporting education for children there, it has a great impact. Haiti is a country with one of the highest dropout rates in the world and your donation is not only helping children go to school and graduate, but you’re also promoting good health for students by affording them healthy food through our Food Assistance Program. Additionally, some of our students are part of vocational training. Along with their studies at the high school, they are gaining a skill that allows them to start earning an income while attending school and are better set for the future.
What would you like Haiti to be known for?
WT: I want Haiti to be known for their culture which is just unbelievable, their history is amazing. I think it’s interesting, its multi layered, it explains an awful lot. I want them to be known for their resiliency, their faith, the fact that they understand what community and family is, far beyond what I have ever learned in my years here in Canada. They have so much hope, no matter what circumstances they are in. They always say, we might be poor but there is always someone who is poorer. They are always looking for people who have less than they do because they understand community and they understand meeting the needs of one another and we don’t get that so much here and I want them to be seen as what they are. That is what I see them as.
YB: I wish people would talk about how people in Haiti are so resilient and how they’re so brave – how they are so independent. They are one of the first countries to declare their independence. That’s a huge thing and we don’t talk about these things. How creative they are on solving issues and making the most of what they have.
PARTNER WITH US TODAY IN HAITI
Our projects in Haiti are entirely led by locals who desire to see their country grow and thrive while making the very best of what they have.