Saturday, February 13, 2010

Arrival in Cap Hatien - February 12, 2010

BY, Samuel Usem, CTI Volunteer, Haiti

For a while now I have thought of myself as somewhat of a seasoned traveler. Coming to expect that through the doors of each new international terminal the shock of the reality in front of me will be become less and less astounding. At some point in my life I began to see poverty through this lens as well. I have been asked for ‘one dollar’ by men without limbs, children without clothes and mothers with babes in their arms but each time they were alone. For some reason it seemed understandable in a way that an individual could be poor. Today however my conscience did not have this luxury.

It began with a multitude of young men who all jump at the chance to push your baggage through the door, young women who shove each other out of the way to graciously open the door for you and children that clamor over one another offering to pull your bags. I refuse each one, knowing I can’t possibly hand out charity to all whom expect it for such deeds, and try my best to hang onto my bags. I make it within 5 feet of the car but soon the mass of hands overwhelms me and they begin to pick up my bags to put them the truck with the hope that I will give them money not because I said I will but because now all they have is hope. Behind the throng of able bodied locals are those that do not have the energy to push and shove. They stare forward with glossy eyes that seem to wonder; if begging is too hard then what is left in a country that seems to offer little more at the moment. This is the poverty that immediately slaps you in the face as quickly as your eyes can take it in; forcing you to confront the reality of a humanity that includes this.

Only a couple of a hundred kilometers to the south, in Port Au Prince, is carnage that is beyond imaginable. The image of pancaked buildings with limbs stuck between the layers has been seared into all of our minds. We hear tales of bodies upon bodies that makes up a collection of faces with no names and cannot begin to imagine the reason for this horror. Yet we can take some solace in the fact that we did not create this earthquake. Earthquakes, tsunamis and the like occur on this tiny planet of ours by no fault of our own and we do our best to help in the immediacy after their occurrence. But Haiti’s other woes, those that existed before the quake, require us to recognize our shared humanity and our conscientiousness to aiding our fellow man.

I have to come to Haiti as a CTI volunteer to take partial responsibility of that fact. To help lay the groundwork of a future Haiti where its people do not have to look upon begging as a skill. This future can only be realized if we begin to understand that some aid must have an end goal. In Port au Prince there is a place for disaster relief and immediate medical and food aid, but here in the north it is important that we not forget that lasting sustainable aid is crucial to Haiti’s future. We cannot let the immediacy of this outpouring of aid go without shedding a light on the sustainable and lasting development that must happen if aid organizations are to ever leave this country.

Over the next two weeks I will work at building on existing relationships and creating new ones with those organization and individuals that share CTI’s vision of a world in which everyone has access to food and water, the basic building blocks of not only our economy but our humanity. The real work, as it always seems to, begins tomorrow.

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