Sustainability, sustainability, sustainability. Blah, blah, blah. That word is bandied about more than George W. Bush’s weapons of mass destruction rhetoric (WMD for short). “Sustainability is ubiquitous around most NGOs, mission agencies, and non-profits. Heck, if you use the word in a TED talk, you might be label genius. But in Haiti, where sustainability is it’s lifeline, we’re failing, according to a piece by John Blake of CNN.
Let’s define sustainability first, before we discuss how our efforts in Haiti might be falling a tad short. Sustainability can be defined as doing something over that short-term that can be maintained (or sustained) over the long-term.
Yes, we (Americans) are sending mass well-intentioned support to Haiti in its time of need. But I wonder if our efforts might be better suited to help in other ways. Here’s what one Haitian has to say about the help:
Ronald Agenor, a Haitian-American, says he’s grateful for the world’s assistance. But he doesn’t want the earthquake to wipe out one of his native country’s most precious assets: its independence.
“We’re not a country anymore,” said Agenor, a former top-ranked professional tennis player. “It doesn’t seem like we have a government. We’re a place where people go to give money.”
Here’s an expat sharing how so much assistance can damage a ravaged country like Haiti:
“There’s nothing worse than a bunch of foreigners coming in to fix everything,” said David Humphries, a spokesman for CHF International, a humanitarian organization that is in Haiti. “Self-esteem and buy-in are very important for any community. They need to say, ‘This is our building, our hospital.’ “
Based on this piece and others like it, I have to say I agree with their assessment. Here we are given the ultimate task of sustainability, and I fear we might leave Haiti in worse shape than when we arrived.
What are your thoughts on this touchy subject??