I went to Haiti on the 15th of February, 2010 to see my family and to investigate the situation there.

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Thursday, 25 February 2010

So I cling to my hope

This afternoon I had an interview with Bill Wholbrook Director for Mercy Corp Haiti, who happens to be the first person yet to give me a hopeful insight into the future of the country.  According to Bill, if the earthquake had hit a secondary city it would not have created such chaos both in human loss and in the infrastructure of the place.  Port-au-Prince was the centre of everything: government, industry, education etc…  And people flocked into the capital in search of a better life and the city was not coping with its population of 3 million.

Now that it is levelled, one must then look at the enormous opportunity to turn things around:  “I see an enormous opportunity here and I am extremely hopeful because I think everyone realizes that priority one is the revitalization of the grassroots economy… and the development of the departments (counties) outside Port-au-Prince.  If we can come together as an international community and create real long-term jobs outside of Port-au-Prince … we’ll be able to turn things around.  This is the time, and the international community understands that, to make the necessary investments to turn the country into what the Haitians want to country to be, not what Americans want the country to be, what the Canadians want the country to be, what the French want the country to be…  So I cling to my hope.”

Bill Wholbrook and Special Advisor to the President Mr. Jean Renald Clerisme

After our chat, we were driven with full security details to the inauguration, by First Lady Mrs. Elizabeth Preval, of “Place Ti Moun” (Children’s Park) a psycho-social program through which Mercy Corp and the Dominican Republic government are partnering to offer children from six to ten years old help in returning to a normal life.

First Lady Mrs. Elizabeth Preval

Since January 12 schools have not reopened, and this generation of children has seen more than its fair share of horror.  The secret to turning Haiti around may be to empower the people with skills, training and the creation of jobs aiming to close the gap between the vast uneducated lower class and the tiny upper class, but it is also to equip the poor children so they don’t fall into the same trap as their parents before them.

The work being carried out at “Place Ti Moun” starts with helping parents understand that their kids have been adversely affected by the earthquake and will aim to help them handle the change in behaviour that is already evident, thus avoiding conflicts that would eventually eat away at the already disturbed family unit.  “We’ve seen that in other disaster areas like China and other countries where I have worked and this program does a good job at training parents so they can help in stabilizing the young ones” said Griff Samples, a Psychologist with Mercy Corp.

Children are the future of the country.  So while the immediate need of relief and of creating a better life for the adults of today is important and necessary, ensuring a stable generation of future adults is the key to continuous growth and development from within.

To the question: “How long will rebuilding take?” Bill’s answer was:  “No one knows!”

Indeed no one knows… Yet I hope that a year from now the NGOs will not pull out as has happened so many times before.

1 comment:

  1. Ted we are thinking of you. I guess the world will be even more distracted now that there has been a quake in Chile.
    Will keep praying
    Love from Gary and Nona