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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Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer. Seattle. 7:00pm. Desperately holding on to summer. #goldengardenpark #nofilter Happy Birthday, Minhee! I'm so grateful for you. You radiate faith, hope, and love.  No...you don't complete me. That would be silly and simply humanly impossible but you keep pointing me and our family to Christ who informs and transforms our lives, marriage, family, and ministry. Thanks for being so faithful. I love you so much. (* And what a gift to be in Korea together.)

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