Why is Haiti so poor? Is it because Haitians are dimwitted or incapable of getting their act together?
Haiti isn’t impoverished because the devil got his due; it’s impoverished partly because of debts due. France imposed a huge debt that strangled Haiti. And when foreigners weren’t looting Haiti, its own rulers were.
The greatest predation was the deforestation of Haiti, so that only 2 percent of the country is forested today. Some trees have been — and continue to be — cut by local peasants, but many were destroyed either by foreigners or to pay off debts to foreigners. Last year, I drove across the island of Hispaniola, and it was surreal: You traverse what in places is a Haitian moonscape until you reach the border with the Dominican Republic — and jungle.
Without trees, Haiti lost its topsoil through erosion, crippling agriculture.
To visit Haiti is to know that its problem isn’t its people. They are its treasure — smart, industrious and hospitable — and Haitians tend to be successful in the United States (and everywhere but in Haiti).
Hat-tip to JR Woodward, who found this prayer for Haiti, adapted from the Book of Common Prayer:
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As the eyes of the world turn to Haiti, let us join our hearts in prayer:
God of compassion
Please watch over the people of Haiti,
And weave out of these terrible happenings
wonders of goodness and grace.
Surround those who have been affected by tragedy
With a sense of your present love,
And hold them in faith.
Though they are lost in grief,
May they find you and be comforted;
Guide us as a church
To find ways of providing assistance
that heals wounds and provides hope
Help us to remember that when one of your children suffer
We all suffer
Through Jesus Christ who was dead, but lives
and rules this world with you. Amen.
— Bruce Reyes-Chow, Gradye Parsons and Linda Valentine
Ever since the earthquake in Haiti, we’ve been trying to discern how our little community can help. Tragedies like this bring out the best in people, but they also provide fertile ground for scam artists to capitalize on people’s sympathy and desire to help. Fear of being taken advantage of can cause inaction.
So it’s great to be networked with others who are in uniquely strategic positions to get on-the-ground information and be of real help. Through JR Woodward, I found out about that Cornerstone Community Church is in such a position. They’re part of the Ecclesia Network, and have been working in the Dominican Republic for many years (which shares the island with Haiti). Through their organization Del Camino Connection, they’ve established a two-phase plan to provide cost-effective and responsible assistance and relief to Haiti.
Phase one involves funneling locally purchased relief supplies through churches, ministry partners and community-based organizations connected to the coalition in Haiti. The immediate request from our partners is cash donations so that we can purchase supplies in Dominican cities along the border with Haiti. From previous experience, we have learned that containers sent from abroad take up precious time in transport, customs processing, and transport to the emergency site.
Phase two of the plan will draw from the assessment and mapping currently happening in Haiti. Once emergency processes are met and condition are stabilized, we will be requesting in-kind contributions.
We are encouraging our community to give to their Haiti Disaster Relief Fund, knowing that it is going to meet needs wisely. You can give online right now, or bring a special offering to our worship gathering tonight which will go directly to this fund.