The first time I arrived in Haiti was less than a year after the 2010 earthquake. I was 16 and in for a shock. The devastation was horrendous. Poverty and dejection seemed to be written on every face as we drove through the winding, dilapidated roads of Port-au-Prince.
Now, almost 8 years after the earthquake, conditions have improved little by little as the country cleaned up and upgraded its facilities. About a week ago I returned from yet another trek to Haiti. I have visited Haiti multiple times since my trip in 2011. But this past trip was different. It was the hardest trip yet, even harder than the first time seeing the deadly impact of the earthquake.
Previously in Haiti I interned for an organization called myLIFEspeaks (mLs). mLs is a nongovernmental organization that is founded on three pillars: Public Health, Education, and Orphan Care and Prevention. mLs also specializes in special needs advocacy. In Haiti, a child with special needs is considered to have voudou curse. Often times the child will be ostracized, used as human sacrifice, or abandoned. Many of the kids under mLs’ care are children that the staff at mLs have rescued. In their school, LIFEacademy, they have two full special needs classrooms taught by Haitian teachers. They also run several programs for the community including: a child feeding program, redemption 72:14 for at risk teenagers, an elderly program, pregnant mothers program, and more.
However, this time I was not an intern so I got to spend my time visiting my friends who have become family and building relationships. Instead of the nice, reuniting visits I was expecting, my dear friends that I’ve had for years told me stories that made my heart drop into my stomach. There are still times when they go 2 days without eating. There are days when they are kicked out of school because they don’t have enough money to attend. A girl who is younger than me had her second child and does not have the resources to take care of her children. So much pain and adversity that I could never fathom. I want to be able to hug them and take it all away. But I can’t.
I felt angry and discouraged. What can I even do to help? How could I not know the extent of my friend’s adversities? Have I come all of these years to Haiti and not even made a difference? If so, how can some one even make a difference? How has myLIFEspeaks let this happen? I felt angry with the world. Angry with America for letting this country be at our doorstep but only throwing scraps out the backdoor as if to dogs. I was angry with God.
How can a just and loving God make people suffer so? How can a loving God watch His children starve? If this is God’s love, I don’t understand it like I thought I did. How could a merciful God let a people with the biggest hearts, and strongest faith face natural disasters that continually destroy what little they have? If God doesn’t seem to help them, should I give up too?
To me, these questions remain unanswerable. The only mantra I can assure myself is that doing something is always better than doing nothing. Doing something is always better than giving up hope.
Yes, one could argue that there are organizations that are hurting more than helping third world countries. Or the amount you spend on a plane ticket is money you could just send to Haiti. There is some truth to these arguments. And the goal is obviously to help rather than hurt. But doing something even if you are unsure of the impact. Going and building a relationship. Giving a hug. Sharing a laugh. Making someone a meal. Giving away a meal. Giving someone five dollars to buy a school book. The money you put into the economy by buying a t-shirt. These may be tiny drops of rain in what seems like a bottomless bucket. But, doing something is always better than doing nothing. Because no matter what doubts I may have, doing something to show love, to potentially inspire hope, affection, and kindness is better than sitting at home and re-watching “Breaking Bad”. It’s hard. At times seems fruitless. At times it may be fruitless. But doing something is always better than doing nothing.
And for what it is worth to you. Remember the rain that made your corn grow. Remember that, that same rain that makes your corn grow is the same rain that floods your house or ruins your camping trip. Remember that the rain you can cup in your hands, what’s left after it drips through your fingers no matter how tight you clench, can help a person in the worst of droughts.
Amongst these unanswerable questions I am forced to know that whatever or whoever is up in the heavens who is allowing all this adversity, they also created these beautiful humans that populate Haiti and populate the world. If nothing else. That is all. The Haitian proverbs “Sonje lapli ki leve mayi ou.” “Remember the rain that rose your corn.” The same God that made the suffering also made the grace. Or whatever you choose to believe. The same molecules that exploded and expanded to make this universe made the terrible and the great.
Using this Haitian proverb I am NOT advocating the justification that we must take the good with the bad or without adversity we wouldn’t appreciate the good times. I simply tell myself that doing something is always better than doing.