Helping Might Be Bad for Haiti

How can we REALLY help this woman?

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??


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