Sunday, June 6, 2010

Back from Haiti

It seems like a lifetime ago that I left Haiti, not a little over a week ago. I feel like I'm finally settling back into work and life, but I find myself checking the news every day for something from Haiti, surfing Facebook for updates from the Haitian interpreters and wondering what else I can do to help.

Basically, Haiti is still in chaos. Poverty is the norm, even before the earthquake in January. Health care is available to those that can afford it (a very few), and provided to the poor only through the outstanding and tireless work of organizations like International Medical Corps, Partners in Health and Doctors without Borders. The world's generosity was apparent with a global mix of clean water provided by Switzerland, Spain and Catholic Charities in the University Hospital (where I worked part of the week). Most of those who lost their homes still live in tents and tarped huts, with plans for more permanent relocation moving slowly in the face of the coming hurricane season. There is no such thing as homeowner's insurance in Haiti, making each and every destroyed home a complete loss, forcing even those who still have jobs to scramble for shelter.

To those who know Haiti's history, these dire conditions may not sound so different than before the earthquake. I've heard some people say that if the Haitian people wanted a more stable government or a more prosperous future, they would have done it by now; that our help is only prolonging their poverty and fostering dependence. I have to disagree with those who use these thoughts as reason to not give help when it is desperately needed. If our aid fosters dependence, we aren't doing it smart enough or with enough compassion. If we find it hard to give, I'm finding it hard to look at what I have and not see excess that could be trimmed and turned into more generosity. As Christ himself related “...when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer, … Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25:35–40.)

I hope you'll forgive a bit of preaching, when you were likely looking for more of a travel log. I just can't help but return from Haiti changed. Not just in my attitude toward Haiti and Haitians, but in how I view giving and compassion and wealth. I've lived a long time without seeing true poverty, and many live with it long enough to accept it as normal or see it on the news as something removed and somehow chosen by those that endure it. This, for me, has been a call to never forget our humanity and our bond as brothers and sisters, regardless of our situation.