Friday, January 15, 2010

Horror in Haiti

Last year about this time, my husband and I were on a cruise to the Caribbean to celebrate our 30th anniversary. We spent a day at a resort on the north coast of Haiti; called Labadee, the place is owned by the cruise company and designed to ensure that no one thinks about life's unpleasantness. The lucky islanders engaged to work inside the compound, selling their wares and putting on a jolly face for the weathy visitors, play their roles well. (Anyone who arrives in Haiti on a cruise ship is, by definition, unimaginably rich by the standards of the country.)

I've seen faces of the poor before, but this was something different. Every Haitian I met was emaciated--a few thousand calories from starvation. Their smiles were tinged with desperation, and they had a look in their eyes I can't forget--couldn't forget, even before the disaster unfolding in that country today. There was agony in their eyes. I couldn't help but wonder how many relatives some of those people tried to support on their meager daily earnings from selling straw hats and cheap, homemade jewelry.

Technology makes so many things simple, including giving. I urge you to text the word "Haiti" to 90999, which will automatically send a $10 donation to the Red Cross. I just did it, and it couldn't be easier. You'll barely register the ten bucks on your next phone bill. But it will help aid workers and volunteers on the ground, who up to their elbows in blood and dust, bring what mercy they can to the suffering.

6 comments:

Six said...

It is so awful what has happened to the people of Haiti - it has had me sick and my wife literally in tears reading accounts and seeing pictures of the devastation. I have never been to the Carabean but I do work with a man from the Dom. Rep - he owns a house there and goes back a few times every year. It is fascinating and depressing to hear accounts of how poor and corrupt Haiti is (and his perception as to why) - these disasters are always terrible whenever they happen, but it is especially devastating to people who have so little. It certainly makes you appreciate why they risk so much to come to our country with their children on rickity boats, etc.

Hopefully some good can come out of this horrible tragedy - hopefully now the US and other more stable countries in the region will not continue to ignore the cancer that has been growing there.

Idna said...

It is truly heartbreaking to see the unbelievable horrors and suffering in Haiti.

I've been to the Carribean a number of times. Been to about a dozen of the islands. Some are "owned" by European countries, some by the U.S., some are on their own. Nowhere was there the level of poverty and danger of violence that came close to that of Haiti.

So what is it about Haiti that has spawned such povery, corruption, violence?

Six, you seem to be blaming the 'U.S. and other more stable countries' for ignoring what has been going on there. Please read a short history of Haiti.
Please pay attention to the last 20 or so years. There has certainly been a lot of international intervention.

Jane, a couple of weeks ago I saw a grade school friend by the last name of Parker. (You will remember him.) He was talking about an upcoming trip to Haiti. He was planning to go there to give free dental services arranged by a U.S. Church group. I don't know what the status of that trip is now.

So in addition to certain countries and the U.N. trying to improve life in Haiti, individual citizens have also been trying to help out the people. I don't believe it's been a matter of ignoring anything.

Anonymous said...

Well, actually, from what I understand, Fox News has been doing a pretty good job of ignoring it: http://mediamatters.org/blog/201001140032

Six said...

Idna, I guess that lamenting is the confusion I have of how we can justify sending hundreds of thousands of troops and spending hundreds of billions - probably in to the trillions when all is said and done - trying to nation-build in Afghanistan and Iraq as just one example. In the end costing thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of locals lives with little to no chance of ever achieving the goal of what most Americans believe our reason(s) is to be over there.

Haiti on the other hand is just off of our coast, tens of thousands risk death tring every year to enter our boarders illegally and it is a hotbed of government corruption abusing the population. We need to be asking ourselves why that is more often than worrying about if someone is a so-called terrorist with amature-at-best bomb in his underwear (who ironically is not from any of the countries we are currently engaged in war with to "fight terrorists"). If there is a case to be made for the US intervening in other countries affairs - this country certainly warrants it more so than say Afghanistan does today.

The type of overwhelming poverty and government corruption in Haiti magnifys the horror of natural disasters such as this earthquake. In contrast, the SF quake in 1989 was similar in size and location with respect to a massive urban population center. The difference being one of the weathiest areas in the Americas with access to an open liberal economic democracy that generates weath and increased standards of human life in contrast to one of the poorest and most corrupt where the people have the least amount of hope of ever improving their situation no matter how intelligent, innovative and determined they are. Rather than spending in to the trillions and destroying so many lives half-a-world away, as a collective nation our government should be more focused on policies and influence that will lead to more open, prosperous liberal democracies closer to 'home' that promote wealth generation and increased standards of living.

Sue said...

One of the truly devastating aspects of this earthquake is that it has wiped out the entire city without respect to wealth or power. To see much of the infrastructure of such a fragile economy destroyed and the leaders who could empower the people may well prove a blow the country can't overcome. What Haiti will need is essentially to be rebuilt from the ground up. That means bringing in food, heat sources (to eliminate the peoples' deforestation to create charcoal with which to support themselves) building materials (they have the expertise to a great extent) and medical care and supplies. It will mean an opportunity to change the culture and hopefully address the root causes of the abject poverty. But that's a massive undertaking and I'm cynical enough to believe that the world will lose interest before the work is really begun. So let's support those private organizations that are already working to rebuild Haiti. They need all the help we can give. Some of my friends belong to a church that is already helping one of the villages near Port au Prince. They will continue to do so, aiding the school, helping create employment opportunities, giving medical care and advice. That's the level where the change needs to focus after the initial rescue/rebuilding work is in hand.

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