Why You Should Help Haiti Now

When we were a young nation, the African slaves of French Hispaniola had the audacity to believe that all men were created equal, and in 1803 successfully revolted against their French masters. The French were incensed, and sued the newborn nation for loss of their colonies and slaves. Unfortunately, the former slaves didn’t think to sue France for a century of unpaid labor, and it took them an additional century to pay off their “debt”.

President Thomas Jefferson, as a southern slave owner himself, greatly feared that Haiti’s action would lead to a slave revolt in the US. To prevent such a thing, the US, France, and Britain crushed the new nation with a trade embargo that ruined their nascent economy, forcing them to take out high interest loans that were not repaid until 1947. 1947! Many of Haiti’s subsequent troubles can be traced to these acts.

Leadership in Haiti has always been problematic, due to its initial poverty and the meddling and economic punishments inflicted by others. The US Marines occupied Haiti from 1915-1934, and not long afterward Haiti was thrust into the claws of the murderous kleptocracy of the Duvaliers, father and son, for 29 years. A number of improved administrations followed, but they were not always approved of by the elite or the US. In the state-sponsored coup of 2004 the populist president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was kidnapped by US forces and flown to the Central African Republic, one of the least safe places on the planet, “for his safety”. It was claimed that Aristide had stolen millions and committed other crimes, not one of which has been substantiated. His real crime was that he was elected by 90% of the people.

There is much more, but my point is that our beloved democracy has from the first days of the Haitian Republic to the present day, acted in ways that have crushed democracy and impoverished the people. We owe them big time.

The US has from the first days of the Haitian Republic
to the present day, crushed democracy
and impoverished the people.

Then, on 12 January 2010, after over two centuries of meddling by the US and others, murderous dictatorships, state-sponsored coups, and more, a major earthquake struck, virtually leveling the capital, Port-au-Prince, and immediately killing a quarter million people. The earthquake destroyed practically everything except the powerful will of the Haitian people. Many nations pledged money for recovery. Over two years later, only half has been delivered.

That is why I send money to Haiti every month, to help destitute people, and do my tiny part in counteracting the malicious damage my country has done there over all of Haiti’s history.

Can one actually help by sending money? It’s not always clear. In Africa, much government aid ends up in the pockets of corrupt politicians. Very little of the money pledged by various governments to Haiti has actually arrived in the hands of the government, which is crippled without it. NGOs are sometimes careless, their costly projects accomplishing nothing lasting. International aid rarely seems to involve Haitians in their own future. For now, the best we can do is give money to agencies that we have reason to believe actually bring benefit to suffering people.

The US has a long history of perfidy in Haiti.
We owe the Haitian people a lot,
and this is the time to help.

I’ll mention the three I support every month. There are many more.

Paul Farmer’s Partners In Health (http://www.pih.org/) operates a facility in central Haiti, Zanmi Lasante (creole for Partners in Health), that brings treatment and medicine to large numbers of Haitians who would otherwise have no health care. They employ a significant number of Haitians who are entrusted with seeing that treatment is carried out with patients in their homes, which may be at great distance. Some have become medical professionals with PIH help. They also operate a large clinic and a hospital that treats many people, and since the quake have had a presence in Port-au-Prince.

Danita Estrella-Watts, a fervent Christian, founded Danita’s Children in 2000. Large numbers of orphans were created by the earthquake, many of whom were injured and became malnourished and diseased. Her orphanage, with its school and clinics, houses over 100 orphans to adulthood and is growing. The school is attended by 500. Other development is planned. Although I am not a Christian and did not want my money used to proselytize, I am satisfied that this is one of the better efforts on behalf of orphans in Haiti, limited though it is. There are others in desperate need of money.

Most people are familiar with Habitat for Humanity (http://www.habitat.org/). Worldwide, people in need of decent housing may dedicate a lot of sweat equity to earn a new home. The materials are purchased from donations and volunteers do the building. These homes are small and simple, but are a vast improvement over the rundown, unsafe, and unsanitary shanties where so many people are forced to live. In Haiti there are still hundreds of thousands living under blue tarps in squalid and dangerous camps, eager to be in their own home. I designate my contributions for Haiti, where Habitat has helped over 40,000 families with temporary or upgradeable shelter and built several hundred new homes since the quake, with hundreds more planned. This too is a small effort given the vast need.

These are not the only good charities operating in Haiti, by any means. You should contribute if you can. Perhaps we can help put Haiti finally on its own two feet.

All charities you are considering should be checked at Charity Navigator (http://www.charitynavigator.org/) to be sure you are giving to a worthy one.

Published in: on 2012/08/22 at 10:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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