Musing, thoughts and opinions on Haiti

 A fancy university but no pot to pee in—literally

Posted on January 14, 2012 by

January 12, the second anniversary of the Haitian earthquake, an inauguration ceremony was held for a new $30 million university set in northern Haiti in a small town called Limonade.  The Dominican Republic gave this money and has been overseeing the constructions for about 18 months.  The university-said to be able to accommodate 10,000 students a day, will specialize in teaching science and technology IT curriculum.

So what seems wrong with this picture?  On the surface and through first world eyes, nothing.  A university to teach science and technology–how could one go wrong?

Here you have a good example of the basic problem with utilization of resources and defining priorities in development work, especially in Haiti.  In a country where there is no public sanitation system, no access to clean water for the populous in the capital city of 4,000,000, a cholera epidemic as a result of the former two items and children dying at an alarming rate-30% before their 5th birthday due to preventable causes–well it just seems to me that 30 million dollars could have been used in a different way.  But, hey, that is just my opinion.

The problem is pride.  People want buildings with their names on them.  They want things that will bring them attention instead of really looking at the needs of the poor.  Toilets aren’t sexy.  Believe it or not, in our first latrine project we had in the small village of Belbede, the community leaders actually made a small flat piece of concrete on the side of the latrines to put our names on them because they thought that would be what we wanted. Lest you think that I wouldn’t want my name on the side of a latrine. you would be wrong.   I would really be proud to have my name on the latrine.  But this wasn’t about me.  It was about providing safe disposal of human waste and improving the overall health of the community as a result of that and empowering the people to meet their own needs.  It wasn’t about promoting me or our organization.  It was about the Haitians.

This project isn’t about the Haitians.  It is about the Dominican politicians and the Haitian elite.  The money used for the parking lot which will hold hundreds of cars, that money alone could provide vaccinations for children in the country for years to come, when none are available to the vast majority of children in Haiti now.

30 million dollars–my God– that could transform the public health of much of the population of the entire country.

But instead there is a 30 million dollar status symbol in a small community hours away from the majority of the population.

I know this area.  It is somewhere I have visited many times.  So what I am going to say comes from personal experience.  To give you a bit of perspective, a stone’s throw from this university, about 2 km away is a small town called Tru De Nord.  The last time we had our clinic in Tru De Nord,  I saw an 18 month old child who weighed 12 pounds.  His grandmother brought him in because him mother had died giving birth to him.  She had no money for food and didn’t know what to do.

That trip I also saw a middle aged woman lying on our clinic porch imminently dying.  Why, I couldn’t tell.  The reason I couldn’t tell what was wrong with her was that there was no lab nearby that could help us diagnosis her problem; there was no x-ray available because the local hospital didn’t have the money to fix theirs and there was no one trained to operate it safely.  Why–because she had no access to health care except for the occasional missionaries like us who came.  So no ongoing care for whatever her problem was.  We couldn’t help her.  We offered her some pain medication to help her very labored breathing.

And then her family members sandwiched her in-between two people on a motorbike and took her home this way–as she was breathing her last breaths–to die at home, if she made it that far.

Just take a minute and imagine that picture.

Just how raw can life be?

Pretty raw in Haiti.

And just in case you think these are isolated cases, they aren’t.  That is just what we saw one part of one day.

But….let’s all celebrate!!!!

They have a new fancy university with a sparkling clean parking lot, and 10 buildings and 30 million dollars later, grandmothers are still caring for their grandchildren who are starving and whose mothers have died just trying to bring them into the world.

People are still peeing in the field because they have no latrines, much less a flush toilet.

Women are walking the streets in rags and worn out flip flops because they have nothing else.

People are drinking water from the creek south of where others wash the cars of the rich and others urinate and defecate.

Forget anything like treating diabetes with insulin because no refrigeration exist anywhere to keep the insulin cold when not being used.  Just forget that.

I can’t defend this project so don’t ask me to.

And I can’t defend my Haitian friends who think it is a good thing.

Until I don’t have to have the truck stop for my Haitian friend to urinate on the side of the road or behind a truck because there are no public toilets in the city…I can’t defend this.

Until I don’t have to hear an uncomfortable laugh, when one of the women team member’s says that our truck needs to make a stop and a “bush will be OK”,   I won’t defend these kinds of projects.

It is things like this that discourage me and make me never want to go back to Haiti.

The worst part is that many-a majority in the past and I see no reason why it will change–will take the education that they get at the University of King Christophe and go to another country to live and work–a country where they won’t have to think about cholera, worry about clean water or getting enough food to eat or having a doctor nearby to help them when they need it.

So good for them.

And then,  don’t wonder why no foreign governments trust the Haitian government to look after money given in the form of foreign aid.  They just won’t do it.  They disburse it to NGO’s instead–where at least they can have some accountability and know that the priorities will be different.

And don’t wonder why so many Americans are upset when no one can answer the question adequately about why the money they gave–the millions and millions of dollars–aren’t making a difference in Haiti. Well that would be pride–pride and ego of the Haitian officials who make these kind of decisions.

And don’t wonder why I am so incensed at being levied a 10% tax-about $800 per day for my team I am taking in February-just to stay at a local guest house so that they can maintain their status as an “official” government approved business.

And the other 7 million people— and the half a million still living in tent cities slums–oh I am sorry, they are called Displaced Person Camps–isn’t that so much more palatable–that were formed after the earthquake who no future to look forward to… well they can look at the beautiful university and draw their last breath, wishing someone had thought about their needs.


“Small gift” + “Small Gift” + “Small Gift” + “Small Gift” = “Making a REAL difference to REAL people”

byApril Perry on Monday, November 22, 2010 at 9:41am

When you contributed to an organization have you ever wondered:

“What would my small gift really do in the big picture?  Does it really help or is it just wasted?”

If you ever wondered this, let me dispel right now that myth right now–at least as it applies to Luke’s Mission. 

Those small gifts mean so much to  individual people-especially the people we are working with in Haiti. 

Luke’s Mission was given the oportunity to offer opportunities for people at Aldersgate UMC to consider giving “alternative gifts” this holday giving season,  as we were asked to the Alternative Giving Market yesterday.

As a result we got $845 in contributions which covered the following things:

  • $90 for the Fondwa orphanage for Sr, Carmelle to use to help feed and clothe the 65 orphans there
  • 12 translators were sponsored for water filters to help during the cholera epidemic-their names are Belmondo, Emmanuel, Danis, Sonel, Natasha, Josue, Eddy, Jules, Elmi, Franz, Cenot, Cola;  These are indivudals who will directly benefit from these gifts.
  • 3 families will get to have a light at night because they will now have solar powered laterns. They are Romel and Fregga Dorsaint, Obed Dorsaint Family and Eddy Petit Homme family. 
  • 3 families were sponsored to recieve soap for the whole year with the Global Soap Project.  Their names are the Jules Remy Family, The Obed Dorsaint Family and The Occidor Family.
  • 15 families in Belbede will receive mosquito protection in their home for one year through the Provector flower mosquito repellant program;
  • $75 was given to our “used where needed most” fund-we are especially grateful for this.   This is really exciting for us because it lets us use money for programs or proejects where there are shortfalls and we need to additional money to meet our needs as they arise. 

And to think that there are people here in this country who will be “getting these presents” under their Christmas Tree also is such a blessing for us.

We are so grateful for those who use their Christmas giving opportunity to make a REAL difference in the lives of individual Haitian people and families while still showing their love to their family and friends during the Christmas giving season. 

Your gift DOES make a difference, and the people whose lives will be affected directly through your gifts to Luke’s Mission have real names.  

On behalf of all of the Haitian people whose lives will  benefit from your gifts  during this dark and difficult time for them as they suffer immeasurably through no fault of their own, we are more grateful than words can say.

April Perry and Shelia Rittgers

Chair and Vice Chair

Board of Directors

Luke’s Mission, Inc

Reflecting what the provision of health care looks like in the Kingdom of God


Where is the rest of the $685 million given for Haiti relief?

May 15, 2012

In a recent news report, CBS followed the money from 4 large aid organizations donated to assist in the relief efforts following the Haitian earthquake.  We are now 4 months post event.  Tens of thousands are living in shelters made only of tarps suspended on wooden poles.  I have personally seen pictures and video of rains and how they affect this type of housing structure.  I have seen small rivers running through these refugee compounds and people living under plastic that we would use to wrap a new couch in. 

Yet the Red Cross has received $444 million dollars.  Care has received $24 million, Catholic Relief $165 million and the Clinton Bush foundation $52 million for a total of $685 million dollars for t he relief efforts.  How much has been spent now 4 months later?  $135.75 million.  Less than 1/5 of what has come in to these large organization. 

Even allowing for the fact that it is reasonable to hold back some money for longer term efforts over time, the enormity of the suffering that continues each minute of the day in Haiti requires these organizations to do more than what they have done to bring relief to the Haitians.  Relief should have been accomplished in the first 8 weeks at the most.  Stable and safe housing, sanitation, access to food and water and clothing are the immediate needs addressed by disaster relief.  Yet over 200,000 people still remain displaced in horrific conditions, making their way each day as they can.  The refugee camps are reported to be unsafe with women expecially being brutalized and exploited.  Stealing is common.  Sanitation is virtually non existent.   The first case of diphtheria occurred in one of the camps just this week.   More is likely to come later. 

Why are we not holding these organization accountable for the use of the money that was given to provide immediate relief to the Haitian and to appease their suffering?  80% of the funds remain unspent, now 4 months post earthquake.  80% of the money we gave to help these people. 

It is commonly accepted that the Haitian government can make red tape bureaucracy of this country look like a walk in the park.  However, even with the difficulties that exist in working directly with the government, the large aid organizations could restructure their funding to allow smaller non profits with more grass root contacts to apply for grants for housing projects, transitional and permanent.  Other supplies like beds, latrines and household water filtration systems are easily distributed.  But no plan exists that anyone is aware of to begin this. 

The Haitians have suffered much in their lives.  Many call them resilient.  And that would be appropriate.  However, giving up isn’t an option unless they want to end up dead.  The lazy in Haiti don’t survive.  To see children walking in waist deep water through a shanty town made up of tarp structures that are nearly falling down is more that heartbreaking.  It is inhuman and should not be tolerated.

I return to Haiti next week for the first time since my own first response relief work in January.  Our organization has spent about 45% of the money designated for relief efforts to date.  I am returning as part of the accountability structure of our organization to meet with people and talk with them in person about how the situation is for them and how they have used the funds we have designated for their food, water, shelter and other necessities. 
We need to hold the aid agencies accountable for their lack of providing immediate relief now 4 months later.  And lend support to the smaller non profits who stabilize Haiti on a good day before the earthquake and are now the mainstay of the day to day work to just help the Haitians survive until tomorrow. 


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