Eugene Cho

arrived and learning in haiti

The title of this post was supposed to be the title of a post that I was going to publish yesterday.  I was scheduled to fly out to Haiti on Monday to spend some time with connections, shadow and learn from some organizations for research for our poverty organization, hang with kids at orphanages, and learn about how the food crisis has significantly impacted the people of Haiti.  But because of the multiple storms that have hit Haiti and the surrounding countries – including the current “Ike” storm – I had to make a gut and prayerful decision to postpone my trip to another time. 

I have yet to step foot in Haiti but I have heard so much about its beauty and depravity.  It  has long been on my list of places to go for various reasons.

Haiti’s regional, historical, and ethnolinguistic position is unique for several reasons. It was the first post-colonial independent black-led nation in the world, as well as being the only nation whose independence was gained as part of a successful slave rebellion. Haiti was the first in Latin America to gain its sovereignty and is also the region’s only independent Francophone nation; the other French-speaking Latin American countries are all overseas departments of France. [wikipedia]

And yet because of numerous converging and persistent reasons, Haiti has been devastated by cyclical poverty.  It is the “poorest nation” in the Western hemisphere…and yet only a stone’s throw away from Florida.  Approximately 70-80% of the Haitian population live in poverty and 75% of the population are children.  The yearly income [for those who are able to find jobs] is approximately $150US/year. And consider more of these alarming statistics:   

  • 10% of the child population in Haiti will die before the age of 4.
  • 7% [300K] of the children in Haiti are enslaved.  They are as young as 3 years old.  They often suffer sexual, emotional, physical abuse and possibly death.
  • 45% of the Haitian population is illiterate.
  • 30% of the Haitian population is either ill and or underweight.Because of the recent storms that have battered Haiti, the situation has grown even worse. 

    The island nation has been a bull’s-eye for four storms in less than a month. Fay, Hurricane Gustav, Tropical Storm Hanna and Hurricane Ike raked across Haiti, killing hundreds of people. Witnesses describe mud-covered corpses crowding morgues on the island’s western coast.

    Thousands of homes were destroyed and up to a million people are homeless. Torrential rains ruined crops, while swollen rivers swept away bridges and children. In the city of Gonaives, according to one report, thousands of residents were forced onto rooftops as flood waters rose. The city is all but cut off, with some 100,000 people lacking food and clean water.

    Check out the two articles below:

    New York Times: Meager Living of Haitians is Wiped out by Storms

    Their cupboards were virtually bare before the winds started whipping, the skies opened up and this seaside city filled like a caldron with thick, brown, smelly muck.

    Suffering long ago became normal here, passed down through generations of children who learn that crying does no good.

    But the enduring spirit of the people of Gonaïves is being tested by a string of recent tropical storms and hurricanes whose names Haitians spit out like curses: Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike.

    After four fierce storms in less than a month, the little that many people had has turned to nothing at all. Their humble homes are under water, forcing them onto the roofs. Schools are canceled. Hunger is now intense. Difficult lives have become untenable ones and, if that was not enough, hurricane season has only just reached the traditional halfway mark.

    One can see the misery in the eyes of Edith Pierre, who takes care of six children on her roof in the center of Gonaïves, a city of about 300,000 in Haiti’s north. She has strung a sheet up to shield them, somewhat, from the piercing sun. The few scraps of clothing she could salvage sit in heaps off to a side. “Now I have nothing,” she said before pausing a minute, staring down from the roof at the river of floodwater and then saying again in an even more forlorn way: “Nothing.” [click article to read more]

    Storm-hit Haitians starve on rooftop:

    Haiti was reeling last night from a series of tropical storms which devastated crops and infrastructure and left bodies floating in flooded towns. Three storms in three weeks unleashed “catastrophe” and submerged much of the impoverished Caribbean nation, said President Rene Preval. A fourth storm, Ike, was gathering force in the Atlantic and could strike next week.

    More than 120 people have died, thousands are homeless and agriculture and transport networks have been washed away, prompting calls for emergency international aid.

    “There are a lot of people who have been on top of the roofs of their homes over 24 hours now,” the interior minister, Paul Antoine Bien-Aime, told Reuters. “They have no water, no food and we can’t even help them.”

    If you’re interested in making a donation to some of the relief orgs in Haiti, there are numerous.  Couple I would recommend amongst many are:  Theo’s Work, Compassion, World Vision, Haiti Poverty, Haiti Children, & Clean Water for Haiti.  Feel free to recommend others you have confidence in but even it’s a little, don’t just read and move on.  If you’re not able to give financially, I want to challenge you to take about 30 minutes to click on some of these orgs to see what they’re doing and how you might be able to support them on some level.

Filed under: religion, travel,

10 Responses

  1. Sara says:

    I am a long time lurker/reader, first time commenter. I’m a mama in process of adopting and, even though my child’s birth-courntry is not Haiti, I know of a few in the adoption communty who have children currently living in Haiti awaiting their “forever family.” My husband and I just gave a small amount in response to this blog post: http://dreamingbigdreams.wordpress.com/2008/09/08/haiti-updates/. It tells all about the work of this REMARKABLE organization: http://haitirescuecenter.wordpress.com/

  2. eugenecho says:

    thank you for reading, confessing your lurking, and for your first comment. where are you adopting from?

    thanks for the link. i like RHFH.

  3. Jenny says:

    Eugene, Nazarene Compassionate Ministries – http://www.ncm.org – is another excellent organization that is working to meet the needs of the hurricane victims, as well as the Christians being persecuted in India, and other needs around the world.

    I hope you will one day get to make that trip to Haiti.

  4. eugenecho says:

    @jenny,

    thanks for the tip and the note.

    gain, really appreciate your donation to our org. you should have received an email from our staff about 501c3 and blah blah blah.

  5. Jenny says:

    I did receive the e-mail from your staff. Still praying with you for all that it involves to get it fully up and running. May each of our hearts (including those who are working on your 501c3) be broken and challenged to action as we see the needs around the world through the eyes of Christ.

  6. John says:

    Here’s one of the missions we support in Haiti. The need for both systemic change and individual help is so great there…
    http://norainhaiti.spaces.live.com

  7. browneyedamazon says:

    I have been blessed to have made two trips to Haiti in recent years. It holds a very special place in my heart and I sincerely hope you get the opportunity to go soon.

    Haiti is a heartbreaking blend of sheer beauty (in the people and the land) and hopelessness. That is not to say that Haiti is entirely without hope but that decades of oppression, poverty, religious bondage, and persecution from their own government has left an air of hopelessness that has to be fought daily. Still, the families (particularly the children) I wokred with were wonderful and loving and they will challenge a person to look at what they demand of themselves and their own lives.

    Given the chance I would go back again without hesitation.

  8. Wonderful post. Thanks for your interest and heart for Haiti.
    Please visit my blog, I think you will enjoy it.
    I will be going back to Haiti in March 2009…….I wish I could go now but can’t afford it yet.
    God bless you.
    Deb

  9. Sara says:

    Sorry for the delay in responding to your question. One of the hazards of using Google Reader to track with all of the blogs I like is that I rarely get to see the comment thread. In answer to your question, we are adopting from Panama. Hopefully not too long from now we’ll have our little girl from the Tropics at home here in the Pacific Northwest.

  10. Shaun King says:

    Hey Eugene,

    I just wanted to connect with you to share with you that I also have a huge heart for Haiti. I am considering making a trip there before ’09 and would like to film a video there for our first Sunday service on 1-11-2009. Maybe we can coordinate trips and share resources?

    -Shaun & Crew

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One Day’s Wages

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Collaboration.

col·lab·o·ra·tion
kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun

the action of working with someone or a group of others  to produce or create something.

May we hold our logos, egos, and tribalism have their place. May we hold them loosely for they too shall pass. May we collaborate for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God ... which endures forever. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for @onedayswages...to listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory)

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