Where Do You Start?
Last night we had a discussion around the dinner table how to start helping Haiti. People are starving. They live in overcrowded tents and do not have clean water to drink. Many have no medical care, no jobs, and no security in their communities. Where do you start? Do you fix the roads so that business and industry move in? Do you buy food so that everyone can eat? Do you bring in agriculture experts to teach people how to grow their own food? Do you build medical clinics to stop the spread of disease?
I have been thinking about “where to start” all day. This morning, while sitting around the guesthouse, we talked with some farmers from Indiana. They were here to teach a small village how to farm. Their church was paying for a resident of the village to go to agriculture school. The resident was then going to teach his whole community how to grow crops on their land. I thought this sounded like a good place to start.
Later in the day, we met with World Vision, a large international organization that does relief work in Haiti. Representatives from World Vision told us about how they were building transitional shelters for people whose houses were destroyed in the earthquake. Shelters built by World Vision have a concrete floor that helps keep them from flooding. They have steel frames, wood siding, and windows for ventilation. Currently, World Vision has built 800 shelters. These shelters are designed to be temporary, however they are so sturdy that people will likely stay there for years. World Vision said that they decided to build sturdy houses because they will last longer. However, the trade off was that that fewer houses could be built and that it would take longer. I thought the idea to build sturdy more permanent shelters for people was a good idea. It seemed to be a good place to start.
On the way home, we were packed into a car bouncing up and down in the heat. As we were dodging around holes and rubble, I thought about the importance of roads for a community. Better roads would connect communities. They might bring in businesses, and they would help bring assistance to people all over Haiti. Better roads could really help Haiti. They would be a good place to start.
Finally, before bed we were lucky enough to have a woman come and talk to us about the history and political situation of Haiti. There are elections coming up this Sunday, and I thought she was going to talk to us about the candidates and their positions. But I wasn’t exactly right. Instead, she sat down and started talking about Haiti’s independence in 1804. She started there because in order to understand the politics today, we needed to understand Haiti’s past. We all sat around the table listening intently for 2 ½ hours. We could have sat longer, except we had to cut the meeting short because people in the guesthouse were trying to sleep.
In the end, I don’t think there is a “right” place to start. With so many pressing needs, it seems like just starting is the important thing. Perhaps, the best place to start is by learning about all of the struggles and the years of oppression that people have faced. Hopefully, by understanding a country’s past, it will help us understand the way things are today and make meaningful change for the future.