Updated: Dec 10, 2021
Despite the Haitian government's optimistic view of Haiti's COVID-19 status, local and grassroots organizations are experiencing otherwise.
I don’t know about you, but there is a portion of my day (an intentionally small portion) in which I scan headlines for relevant updates about the COVID-19 status in our country and throughout the world. And, because of our organization’s connection to Haiti, this headline immediately caught my eye: “Haiti declares early victory over coronavirus, plans to reopen factories.”
Our last report gave a glimpse of the precipice where the Haitian population stood—a population poised to fall victim to an unprecedented death rate due to their woefully inadequate health care system. Most of Haiti’s population lives below the poverty line. It is also a population that is governed by a dictatorship, but ruled by gangs. Last weekend, there were 6 deaths due to gang violence, which is more than the reported deaths from the corona virus—as of April 15, there have been 41 confirmed cases and just 3 deaths. However, given the facts that Haiti’s neighbor, the Dominican Republic, reports 3286 cases and 183 deaths AND that Haiti reports testing just 476 people (of its 11 million inhabitants), it seems that, perhaps, the victory flag may need to be shelved for a time.
I hope I am wrong.
As a nation, Haiti has been prone to abuse and violence due to the systemic inequity that seems to have always existed there. The ability for Haitians to obtain adequate food, water, shelter, education, and healthcare is so compromised that most live well below what we would consider survival mode. In our privileged state, we simply cannot imagine the conditions in which they live—and that is true with any population that lives below the poverty line, even in our own United States. The gap is often bridged by local, on-the-ground groups or individuals—the grassroots efforts--who are able to connect people with needed resources.
It was during my partner Andy Mueller's initial visit to Haiti in 2010 that he was able to be part of one such effort. While he visited the country, assessing where he may be of service following the earthquake, he became involved with Haiti Communitere (HC), a Communitere International-affiliated organization dedicated to response, relief, and renewal of communities worldwide. Part of HC’s goal, at the time, was to find ways to re-build housing in Haiti that were both sustainable and seismically responsive. As Andy continued his involvement, he partnered with other organizations to design and build prototype structures on HC’s campus—functional buildings which remain an integral part of HC’s community to this day. It is in these structures--named Ti Kay and Senp Kay--that Haiti Communitere has been able to carry out daily service to the immediate community for the past several years.
And now, more recently, as the novel corona virus has taken a hold of our collective attention--and world—Front Porch’s current projects have temporarily ground to a halt, only to be replaced with other, more urgent needs. While it is not in our power to travel abroad at this time, Andy has been able to stay in close communication with HC’s leadership team to assess what of
their needs could be met from afar. As the situation in Haiti has evolved, it became apparent that these structures, which HC had been leasing from him, were optimal places from which HC could run community-based relief operations for those falling victim to the virus and other life-threatening situations. Finally seeing the way to help HC from afar, Andy made the decision to donate Ti Kay and Senp Kay in their whole to Haiti Communitere to use as they wish. With HC now having full ownership of the buildings, all income realized from rent of the buildings will now be able to be put towards daily operational costs, allowing them to run the campus at a lower overhead--and thus be able to put more resources towards the health and well-being of the local population.
It is through seemingly small actions like this—the signing of a paper, the shaking of a hand, the opening of a door—that make the difference in people’s lives and inspire me to take a step outside my own world.
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