In Haiti there is a lot of talk about NGOs, big organizations and “white people” helping Haiti, but today we visited a project set up and run entirely by Haitians, without any NGO money to help the country forwards. After the earthquake Tanya Lemere saw people fighting over crackers and many were jealous of the little she had. Together with Carel Pedre she starterd the Sunday project, which brings food every Sunday to specifically children in Cite Soleil, one of the poorest and most dangerous parts of Port-au-Prince. We are not allowed to go there. They have plans to expand to giving education.
They were critical about other NGO’s “it’s a vacation for them”, “they get to do in Haiti what Haitians don’t get to do; go to the beach, stay in expensive hotels etc.” On the other hand their help is needed, as Haiti cannot survive by itself. There is no way they will accept donations, only small contributions from friends; “I don’t want people to think that I used NGO money to buy my Iphone”. In short, money and power corrupts in Haiti, they do not want that to happen, even if they can do more good with it.
We decided on a couple of keys to sustainable change:
1. Fall in love with Haiti – and you will – with the people and the countryside
2. Build trust: Haitians have been betrayed by outsiders as well as their own people
3. Involve Haitians – they do not obey, give them chances
4. Stay small
5. If you want to help, help the government first
The more I talk to people here, it becomes clear that for sustainable large-scale development, it cannot be done without a strong government. If the candidates in this elections can create that; for now it remains unlikely.
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By Anne van Bruggen (firstname.lastname@example.org)