The Soft Spot Between the Rock & the Hard Place
“My people go into exile for lack of knowledge;
their honored men go hungry,
and their multitude is parched with thirst.“
It seems that everyone who read the previous article agrees. When it comes to “fixing” Haiti, we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The “rock” is that Haiti desperately needs aid right now. The “hard place” is that it is hard to do this without increasing these negative mentalities and the debilitating dependency that have developed over many years.
After a conversation with Ricky Ruffino (Church of the King in New Orleans) this morning, we found the common denominator for the most helpful programs. The most helpful aid that anyone can give to Haiti right now is education of any form. He shared with me stories of building crews coming in to New Orleans to build homes after Katrina while 5 able-bodied refugees looked on. This is what we want to avoid. This builds an unhealthy dependence and a strange sense of entitlement that also breeds “laziness.”
If you want to come build, why not teach these able-bodied young men and women how to use some of your fancy equipment, leave it in their hands and let them get moving with their new occupation? As for tents, with the right fabric and the right models & plans, there would be a whole new industry in tentmaking for our out-of-work tailors and seamstresses. If you want to feed people, why not bring in some agricultural knowledge or literally teach people how to fish with tilapia fish farms? Urban farming anyone? People can literally grow food for themselves in their 4x4ft space in front of their tents.
Don’t stop with relief related things. Hold a conference about servant leadership. Teach young people about smart relationships. Teach couples about managing a home. Inspire men to be responsible fathers. Inspire women to be loving mothers. Teach us about smart business… Teach English, Spanish, Portuguese… **(Note: The language barrier is the monster that keeps organizations from making the effort to teach. It is much “easier” for them to do everything on their own, but it isn’t necessarily “helpful”). Then when you are done, let us teach you (didn’t see that one coming did you? You might be surprised what you can learn from “needy” people if you simply open your eyes).
I’m not saying that we are lacking knowledge in these things more than any other place. All I’m saying is that if you consider yourself an expert in anything, or if you have any experience to share, you will help so many more people if you leave your knowledge behind in responsible hands. If you don’t consider yourself an expert, find a way to serve side-by-side with Haitian people doing things that should be a part of common responsibility to help them find their place in the reconstruction. Even in this you are giving knowledge: the knowledge that they have a part to play in the building of THEIR country. (So far, NGOs are failing miserably at this. Can the church do better?) Knowledge is the hand-out that Haiti needs the most. Knowledge is the only handout that doesn’t make beggars of men. Knowledge will help us to find our own role in helping OUR country to recover and prosper.