What is the take away after reading this story for us non-Haitians who sincerely want to give what we can to add something positive to the situation?
Non-Haitians need to pressure the U.S. government to change their foreign policy towards Haiti. It's clear that the IMF, World Bank, IDB et al's structural readjustment programs haven't worked. Haiti is destroyed. It's clear that "free-trade," privatization and other neoliberal measures have killed the local industries and destroyed food production in Haiti.
While some priorities have changed (the top priority is rebuilding) and TPS has been granted to Haitian immigrants (for now). The list of priorities from this report by Haitian Lawyer's Leadership Network (HLLN) remains relevant: What Haitian-Americans are asking of the next US president
Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.--Martin Luther King, Jr.
Are our voices as important as our house plans?
Non-Haitian voices are best used when raised in support of Haitian voices and Haiti. Although corruption, injustice and other violations of human rights must be addressed and are top priorities, perspective, sensitivity and context would go a long way in assuring Haitians that there is good will and Haiti's best interest at heart behind calls for transparency, integrity and accountability.
The international community needs to do more listening. The time to have raised Cain was during the political interventions, coups, and the repression. The complicit silence of most of the corporate media, NGOs, religious community and people of conscience in the international community is part of the reason Haiti was mired in political chaos, death and destruction for the majority of these past ten years and beyond. Building infrastructure, institutions and social services was not a priority for the "international community." Evidently, most were in Haiti to make a quick buck -- the Haitian people's welfare was not on the agenda.
And since when does it make sense to dispense democracy from behind the butt of a gun? Pointing guns at hungry, dispossessed and destitute people is criminal. Why fire shots into a crowd of mourners at the funeral of a hero priest Father Gerry - killing one young man? Haitians don't want the UN military occupation. Abuses by MINUSTAH are growing, yet not one blue helmet has ever been held accountable. MINUSTAH either puts away the tanks and guns for tractors and construction equipment or they must all go home.
Or should we with particular skills that are necessary right now be apolitical?
POLITICS: Haitians have been struggling for autonomy and independence for 200 years. The main issue Haiti has faced vis-a-vie the international community has been a lack of respect for Haiti's sovereignty, Constitution, laws, government and people. A lot of it has to do with racism and white supremacy. This also explains the paternalistic nature inherent in the "aid" that Haiti receives.
Point of fact, this Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission is anathema to most Haitians because half of it consists of foreigners and its Chair is Bill Clinton. Haitians see this as a violation of their Constitution and a loss of sovereignty. This is a major issue, which doesn't seem to be permeating the consciousness of the collective "international community."
SKILLS: The problem with the NGOs in Haiti is that they're not building permanent, long-lasting structures or institutions. They're building flimsy ones that will not hold up to the test of time. The fact is, permanent structures would put them out of business and that's not the plan for most.
Questions for you: Are you guys building permanent infrastructures and institutions in Haiti? Ones that you would live in and be governed by?
"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you
feed him for a lifetime."--Old Chinese proverb