Eugene Cho

only haitians can rebuild haiti

First of all, I have several pictures below I’d love to share with you from my recent trip to Haiti. It’s surreal to me that a week ago, I was in Haiti – hosted by the good folks at World Concern. The primary reason was to assess the work that they’ve done and grasp a glimpse of the strategy ahead – for them and other organizations. Consider partnering with us via our Haiti Relief and Rebuild Fund.

There really is much to share but I just don’t have the bandwidth so I’ll just share couple brief reflections:

1. Despite being glued to the TV during the days and weeks post quake, I was still stunned by what I saw in Haiti during my time – and this was 2 months after the quake. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like during my time there.

2. EVERYONE was impacted by the earthquake. You can sense that there is a collective grief and a desire for a collective hope. Over couple days, we interviewed 8 random women and 5 of them had lost at least one of their children.

3. While the need of food, water, and medicine are no longer as urgent as in the initial weeks, there is nevertheless an ongoing need. Having said that, two growing needs (in my opinion) are homes and jobs. There was a 70%+ unemployment rate even before the earthquake and I’ve heard that the figure has grown to 80%+. These are really complex situations with no easy answers.

It’s also rainy season and hurricane season usually arrives in June. I’ve never prayed for weather because it just seems so silly but I found myself praying like crazy for a non-eventful hurricane year this year (like last year). Please, Lord. Yes, there are still a need for tents but rebuilding homes need to happen sooner than later.

4. During my time there, I was encouraged by the work of World Concern – an organization that has been in Haiti since 1978 and have come alongside about 125,000 Haitians. Their 100+ staff is comprised of local Haitians who understand their context and culture. For obvious reasons, couple ex-pats were flown with expertise in disaster response and it was so important because so many people were going through their personal trauma.

I was able to witness the launch of their “cash for work” program. By giving some basic structure, they give local Haitians jobs to remove rubble and eventually start building the homes in their neighborhoods. It’s so important not to perpetuate a dependency mindset but to instead, empower the Haitians to make their own decisions. How important is this? Make sure you check out the video above and you’ll see why this is such an important part of the rebuilding efforts.

I returned back to the States realizing that “we” can’t rebuilt Haiti for Haitians. They need to do that for themselves and while this quake is unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before, we can certainly come alongside them. Yes, there is a heavy presence of nearly a 1000 NGOs in Haiti and while there’s both healthy and unhealthy relief work going on, the story should be about Haitians. I was inspired by the Haitians. I was inspired by the Church in Haiti. I was inspired by many of the young women and men that wanted to have a voice in rebuilding their country. Yes, the essentials are necessary – food, water, medicine, housing – but the greatest asset might indeed be something called opportunity.

Only Haitians can rebuild Haiti but I’m hoping to share with you in the coming weeks how we can come alongside them in the next step of the rebuilding efforts.

Here are some pictures from our trip. Write your questions in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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6 Responses

  1. Thank you for getting it Eugen. I grew up a missionary kid in the developing world (DR Congo and Kenya) and we westerners are so often patronizing in how we approach the poor and tragedy stricken. Why do we have such a hard time putting local nationals in leadership positions? This doesn’t mean we stop helping or giving but rather we come alongside of and walk with the local people. If you say there are no qualified leaders, I say you’re metrics are off. I’ve participated in disaster relief with both the US government as well as development agencies and have seen the damage our good intentions can do. A westerner who made something work somewhere else but doesn’t know the language, nuances of this culture, or understands what is already working and can be build upon, isn’t exactly qualified either.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      Thanks for the note, Craig. While there usually always good intent, I’ve seen some “bad” relief and/or development work. Having said that, I think we can also all agree that it’s very complex. We can all sit and type behind our laptops and criticize. So, kudos to those that are ACTING but hope that we (beginning with me) can always be committed to listening and growing.

      • Great point Eugene. Indeed acting is far better than criticizing (in most contexts), and during this particular disaster I can’t claim to have done any real acting outside of donating. Thanks for keeping me honest. Also let me clarify, there is a LARGE difference between initial disaster relief and long-term development/rebuilding. My comments were directed at the latter.

        • Eugene Cho says:

          craig: that comment wasn’t directed towards you. 🙂

          as you know, MONEY is actually one of the most important things during the immediate relief work.

          but the complexities of development and rebuilding….

  2. Jim says:

    Thanks for the great report Eugene. It’s clear Americans are doing a much better job of stepping back than even just a few years ago. I wanted to suggest this opinion piece from USA Today as well. http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2010/03/column-studying-voodoo-isnt-a-judgment.html. While I certainly don’t agree with Robertson’s simplistic judgement, I do agree with this writers idea that we can’t really understand Haiti without understanding their worldview.

    Did you shift in your thoughts on these issues as you toured the country?

  3. danderson says:

    Eugene,
    Thanks for your reports from Haiti. I’ve travelled/lived in several Latin American countries including Honduras and Guatemala. There are deep-rooted issues that have led to generational poverty there, but Haiti seems like a whole other magnitude of problems. Much of it seems spiritual-related and I think people in other areas of the world have a much deeper sense of the spiritual world than Americans do.

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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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