Sunday, October 9, 2016

wary and generous

Wise as serpents, innocent as doves? Something like that...

I have read a number of things about giving to help with the devastation in Haiti. I have a feeling we don't yet know the half of what Haiti is experiencing. Yes, Florida. But for all we complain about FEMA, at least we have one. 

Haiti doesn't.

What Haiti does have is people - Haitian and foreign - who are already there and working to improve lives. No need to fly people down and pay for housing and such when there are already trained personnel in the field. They aren't hard to find. They just don't get anyone up here any brownie points in the press. 

Anyway, I've just read on Facebook a commentary to which I'd like to add an emphatic AMEN, the last paragraph of an update someone in Haiti has written. I now have permission to share it. I'll include the previous paragraph for context.

We're still hearing reports from our people upcountry. Those in the western part of the peninsula have nothing and we have yet to hear from most of ours. The road is apparently passable to Petit Goave again (by driving through the river since the bridge is gone) so that's a start. People are gathering up what meager personal belongings that they can find and organizations such as Agape Flights Inc are organizing airlifts of locally purchased relief supplies.

During this crisis many have been advising people to use small local ministries to reach into the provinces rather than channeling millions into the big money hungry international aid groups who spend more of their staff support than actually seems to get to the people in need. Those who actually minister here don't need to be flown into the country, rent expensive homes and vehicles or pay translators and guides to get them around, and also don't need to attend endless meetings at expensive hotels or go out to fancy restaurants at night and drink just to unwind. (Sorry, I've finally come out and said it. Please don't hate me.)


Naturally, I have suggestions!

St. Vincent's School - now expanded to a Center - was started by our Sr. Joan in 1945 as the first school in Haiti for disabled children. Another of our sisters is an alum. We don't run it anymore, though we currently have a sister on the board. They do essential work. There are boarding as well as day students whose needs must be met; just keeping up with basic supplies is a challenge, especially since the earthquake. And now this. They do have a new website and clearer American connections, which makes it easier to donate directly.  
You can also donate to St. Vincent's through these two respected groups:
West Tennessee Haiti Partnership (I met these people when I lived in Haiti. They do good work, and volunteers pay for their own travel expenses. There is one fund for the school, including food and medicine for the children, and another separate fund to support travel for a surgeon or medical team members if that is of interest.)
The Children’s Medical Mission of Haiti

Next, Partners in Health/Zanmi Lasante, begun by Paul Farmer, does amazing work. They have two hospitals, the original in Cange and a new one in Mirebalais, and they train medical personnel. I was delighted last year to see a young nurse of my acquaintance in one of their media posts. I knew her back in her early student days! They have a Haitian-run organization on the ground, though they also have the Harvard Medical School connection and the American PIH group as well. There has been a donate button in the right column of this blog for years, but here's the link to their website's article on Matthew in Haiti:

Finally, you can't lose with Episcopal Relief and Development. I'd be willing to bet they have been there for decades, possibly soon after their foundation in 1940, but Anglicanism has been there for longer than that, thanks to James Theodore Holly, a man not easily discouraged.

It's also best for the Haitian economy if money is sent down there so that the supplies needed might be bought from local businesses.  Haitian business owners need to eat and send their children to school, too - and for all we know, they might themselves have lost homes or have taken in family and friends who have. So don't, say, send peanut butter from the US when there is a thriving market for it in Haiti (along with plain, there's a version with hot peppers!). Coals to Newcastle and all.

[I just searched for a picture of mamba (peanut butter) and found this article which says basically the same thing I'm saying while promoting spicy mamba by Rebo. At the convent in Haiti, we bought cheaper mamba and normally the plain version with no peppers, but I do know this company's coffee, which is good, so I bet their mamba is, too.]
[Word to the wise: if you buy spicy peanut butter by accident, it's actually not too bad on bananas for breakfast! With Haitian coffee, of course. I miss Haitian coffee. With condensed milk. 

Wouldn't it also be good to let Haitian people buy the food they like?]

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One more possibility to offer: There is a school of nursing in Leogane I've visited, the Faculté des Sciences Infirmières de l'Université Episcopale d'Haïti or, as it is usually known , the Faculté des Sciences Infirmières de Léogane. FSIL is near Darbonne, the town where I did the original internship that led to this blog. The nurse I previously mentioned is a graduate, as a matter of fact.  They are located near the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake and are on the southwestern peninsula that was slammed by Matthew. In both cases, nursing students have been challenged to see what they could do to help in the aftermath of disaster. The dean, Hilda Alcindor, is a very determined woman, and I'm sure these students as well as the faculty members will be making a difference. (Read the reports here: They are worth your support. The easiest way to get them money is to send it through the small foundation in Ann Arbor, MI, set up for their support and for the development of nursing in Haiti.

Finally, please be generous with your prayer. It makes a difference. 

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