Jul 11, 2018

Ayiti Cheri. An Update from Haiti

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As you may already know, Haiti has been experiencing some really tough days since July 6. In fact, due to the social unrest there, which resulted in a State Department travel warning of “No Travel,” we have postponed our group trip scheduled for July 25-30.

But read on please. Caitlin Campbell has been serving with us in Haiti for two years now. Caitlin provides some needed perspective in a post on her blog. We commend it to you.

Ayiti Cheri

By now I’m sure that many of you have heard…things in Haiti got a little bit tense last week and especially over the weekend. I thought that I would give you an “official” update of how things are and also a little perspective. The last thing in the world that I want is for anyone to think that this place is dangerous or a “lost cause.” One thing I know to be true, is that social media and other news outlets do not always portray the full story, or for that matter, the full truth.

So, let me give you a little bit of background…
Last week, the government made an announcement that they would be increasing fuel prices on gasoline, diesel, and kerosene. These fuel increases varied anywhere from 36-49%. That’s a huge increase, right? It would be a large increase in America too. Just as any American would be enraged by an increase that steep, so were the people of Haiti. Fuel is a huge part of life here — transportation, generators, many forms of work, and so much more. So, you raise the cost of fuel, and that nearly guarantees the price of many other things (food, public transportation, various goods, etc.) also will rise.

So, why is the government doing this? For many years, the government has be subsidizing the cost of fuel. They are ending the subsidies (this actually means long-term benefit) so now residents would be paying the “real” cost of fuel. This is a complex idea for someone who’s working daily to put food on the table for their family. Honestly, I don’t totally understand how subsidies work!

The people of Haiti were justified in being upset about such a large increase. (I’m not politician, but I’m sure there would have been a less dramatic way to stop the subsidies.) Were the people of Haiti justified in their response to the increase? Not really.

But here’s what I don’t want you to miss.

Those that retaliated with roadblocks, bullets, and fire aren’t the whole of Haiti. They are a portion. I understand why some reacted the way they did. This does not mean I agree with their reaction. This is a group of people desperate for their voice to be heard. The way they see to make that happen is violence. They did what they thought they had to.

But this doesn’t mean this is how ALL of Haiti responded. There are an equal and probably greater number of people who were taking shelter and staying off the road just like many of the foreign residents that live in Haiti. Were they as equally upset about the increase? Yes!

I’ve lived in Haiti nearly two years and never once have I ever felt unsafe. Does that mean there’s no danger? Not necessarily. But there’s danger in any city. Including American cities. Are there certain places I don’t go after a certain time? Yes. Are there places I never go alone? Yes. But that was true of my life in Kansas City and I’m sure that’s true of your life as well.

Just because a group of people decided to get a little fired up (pun intended), doesn’t mean that should reflect the whole of Haiti. There have been so many posts online from people who live here sharing about the beauty and generosity of most Haitians. The Haitians that I know are no different.

The family that I work with is currently out of the country and I’m caring for Moses. Did I have a little bit of extra weight on my shoulders knowing that I was caring for someone else’s child while political unrest was starting? Absolutely. Did I ever worry for our safety or what would happen if it got really bad? Not really. Why? Because I’m surrounded by a network of Haitians that look out for us. I had numerous people filling me in on what was happening on the streets of our town (minimal activity, thank you Jesus!) and were willing to go out and get supplies for me to make sure we were prepared in case it did get a little more dicey in our town. Even if things had gotten a little more intense, I have no doubt I would have been surrounded by our staff and friends to walk that road.

That’s my Haiti. 

And that’s many other people’s Haiti as well.

In the end, the fuel increase was suspended. But it goes beyond that. That was a door into a bigger issue that the people of Haiti have to figure out — that’s a whole different story. Things have been relatively calm today. Roadblocks have been removed, stores are open, traffic is flowing. I am still safe. Things are looking forward.

So….

Did scary things happen in my country? Yes.
Will the actions taken by a portion of people have a large effect on all of Haiti? Yes.
Does that mean their actions should influence your opinion of Haiti as a whole? I sure hope not.

Pray for my country.
These actions will set many businesses, merchants, and families back.
These actions will unfortunately affect how the world looks at Haiti.
The country needs healing and unity. There are still discussions of what some of the population would like to see happen with the government.
Pray for peace.

Ayiti Cheri
*This is a term we often use to refer to Haiti that simply means something the effect of “Darling Haiti,” “Beautiful Haiti,” “Dear Haiti.” Basically, there’s a lot of good here in and amongst the “bad.”

Hopefully this has given you a little bit more perspective and understanding into recent events. Feel free to contact me if you have further questions about Haiti. [NOTE: Caitlin blogs at Cati Goes to Haiti.]

Love,
Caitlin