Haiti is a country of contrasts. Some roads in downtown Port-au-Prince look like a rocky river bed, with jagged rocks and certainly no indication of recent maintenance. I was amazed to see piles of trash dumped in city streets or sidewalks, the mounds rotting or smoldering.
The country’s government is a fragile entity. When World Concern staff travels to Haiti, we carefully evaluate the security in the country to minimize risk. You might see some Haitian police forces, but at least as often, you will notice UN security forces. Sometimes they will be working on foot. Other times, they will be in full armor, travelling in an armored personnel carrier, which looks very much like a tank. The poverty is so widespread, I was wondering when I looked at some poor families selling their fruit or other wares – if they could really find a better life.
There is another Haiti, though. It’s the Haiti that once was, and a Haiti that may one day return. I saw this in the white sand beaches that could be any Carribean paradise. If only tourists felt safe getting to the beaches, they would come. They could walk under beautiful canopies of trees, with coconuts and bananas growing in villages. Actually, as I understand it from locals, some cruise ships do now dock on an isolated area of the northern coast, allowing passengers to enjoy a secured beach. The locals tell me that cruise ship operators don’t make it clear that they are in Haiti. They say the city name instead. Maybe one day there won’t be the stigma. Haiti once did enjoy tourism.
I can also see this potential with the Haitians who are able to educate their children and who value the rights of women. I am proud to see how World Concern humanitarians are helping Haitians who share our sustainable vision. Once-hungry families are now able to feed themselves.
There is a movement in this often desperate country to break out of the despair. In situations where it’s easy to focus on the enormous challenges, it is refreshing to see hints of a better life for the good people of Haiti.