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.

–Isaiah 5:13

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.

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About Junior Bataille

Proud Haitian Citizen, Nationalist, Businessman, Husband, Christ-Follower, Beekeeper. Dedicated to the transformation of MY nation. http://jgbataille.wordpress.com

Posted on March 12, 2010, in Deep Thoughts, Haiti, Life. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. great…let’s get started!

  2. Junior,

    As a Haitian-American student at a wealthy, elite private institution in the U.S. I am feeling quite torn. The tragedy in Haiti has hit me on a deeply personal level. For weeks I was in mourning, feeling a sense of uneasiness living in a city where each of my basic needs were met, while my cousins back home had lost their friends, extended family members, and homes. Nonetheless, I know we are the lucky ones and I pray and cry for the ones who have lost family members.

    When I heard about the tragedy, I immediately dove myself into relief efforts, raising thousands of dollars on campus and visiting nearby churches to speak and ask for prayer. Now it’s 2 months later and the aid money has helped – but from what I hear not enough. I’m left with the feeling that maybe my energy is misdirected, so I am taking some time to think about what more? My university has committed to helping Haiti but it seems they are also in need of guidance. Often times I feel that I am the “ambassador” for Haiti but I recognize that I cannot speak for the Haitian people because I am not there, my parents have not lived there in nearly 20 years, and my immediate family members have all immigrated to the U.S. Who am I to say what Haiti needs but also, how can I find out what the people need without going there? What can I do from Connecticut?

    What do Haitian American (or anyone interested in Haiti) students do from afar to help Junior? I see it as three contributions 1) Praying, 2) Educating ourselves and our peers and 3) Raising money. What am I missing Junior? My mother constantly reminds me to invest in myself — develop my relationship with God, study as much as possible, make as many contacts, and become a cultured person in order to make a difference in the future.

    But what about now? Your article talks about helping people help themselves but for many reasons, Junior, I cannot go to Haiti right now. Three weeks ago I had lunch with the ambassador of Haiti to the US and he said I can help by giving money to the Embassy. I winced. There must be more than giving money because certainly Haiti has been getting money for YEARS.

    In the next few weeks we’ll be hosting a summit with university administrators to talk about our commitment to Haiti for the next 4 years. What should we talk about? What goals should we focus on? As I prepare my notes, I’m realizing this is not just a simple math problem or a homework assignment — thousands of people are trying to figure out the same (or in some cases, different). The silver lining in all of this is that I have faith in God and His ability and that He has a plan. I clasp my hands in prayer, read blogs like yours, and see children smiling and I am encouraged. I will not stop.

    When I first met you a few years ago, I was always amazed — sometimes shocked — by your seemingly “carefree” attitude. Now I realize that you knew (like I know now) that your foot steps were orchestrated by God. Four years later, you’re in Haiti — using all of the skills and resources you’ve amassed to do God’s work. Hats off to you Junior, God speed and remain encouraged. Thank you for this blog and thank you for your resilience and daily witness to your readers.

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