Janice Hatt's Reflections on the Haiti Mission Trip

This first trip to Haiti was eye-opening for me, although not surprising in many ways. I had read enough reports, and had enough information before going to know that we’d see crowded, dirty, hot and impoverished conditions. Without Cal’s reminders of the factors that lead to dependence and the cycle of unending impoverishment, I would likely have been handing out dollars right and left and responding to every sad story – and there were many, many sad stories -- in an attempt to solve the immediate problem, likely with a hand-out, knowing that these instant solutions were, at best, very short-term. In the end, I likely would have thrown up my hands in despair, thinking that the problems are too big to solve.
Instead, I got to meet some people who are working on their own problems with the assistance and support and encouragement of Empower Global. I came to appreciate the challenges of changing two centuries worth of habits and attitudes, one small step at a time. I was extremely impressed with the calm, firm way Cal kept patiently bringing everyone back to the principles that govern the projects they are involved in. I feel confident that if anything is going to help break the vicious cycles at work, these grass-roots (and vegetable roots) efforts are a big part of it. I was heartened to see and hear the stories of the children who are being fed, clothed and educated, thanks to the sacrifices of local Haitians who are giving everything they have to that effort. I could see the difference improved access to medical care made for people. The progress the small groups are making in productivity and self-reliance through the cultivation of family sustenance gardens was most impressive, and their growing ability to manage the process for themselves is very heartening. However, it’s also very evident that the kind of patient effort Cal was making will need to continue for a long time. We were told that the African model seems to take about 7 years to become ingrained, and that sounds about right from what we saw.
Everything we did and saw on this trip reinforced my faith in our ability to make a difference and to invest time and money where it will really count.
Having said all that, though, I still grieve for the people we saw, struggling to find food, health care, and all the other things we take for granted. The children scrounging whatever food they can and rewarding us with giant smiles when we offer it. The people spending long hours waiting in line at understaffed, under-equipped clinics. Schools that manage day to day, with leaders who hope teachers will stay on, even if they can’t be paid. Families whose small garden plots have washed away in torrential rains. People whose voodoo beliefs and practices deny them any hope of a brighter tomorrow. We can’t give up on them. It’s up to us, with God’s help, to find the patience and resources they need to turn this situation around.

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