Two Years of Aid Work in Haiti

A guy reflects on his experiences. Nothing has been accomplished (though not for lack of trying), and the locals are openly contemptuous. He still blames himself.

7 thoughts on “Two Years of Aid Work in Haiti

  1. I knew a girl who went on a missions trip to Haiti, ended up catching dengue fever and almost dying. It is a hopeless land; nothing ever changes there.

  2. Did you ever read the article written by a white female volunteer in Haiti who was raped by a black man but still blamed it on white men?

    This story reminded me of it. Confronted with the reality of Haiti and the debasement of the inhabitants, they try to foist the responsibility onto white people. It’s ironic because on the one hand they realize they have taken an ethnocentric position in the past – in thinking that they can just waltz into a place and change it and that people are just waiting for white people to come and show them what to do. But at the same time, in stepping away from that view, they buy even more strongly into more vague and general explanations about how it all comes down to white people.

    Anyways, I’ve volunteered in a couple of third-world countries as well, and I had similar feelings. I imagine it’s widespread among those who bother to think about what they’ve done. I spent several months in Nepal, and many of the volunteer programs there are simply scams, run by Nepali families as basically private businesses. Also, international volunteer organizations will set up volunteers with already existing local NGOs, adding nothing but a several thousand dollars for “overhead.” Much of the work is haphazard and pointless and adds up to little if anything. I remember hearing various stories from volunteers about other organizations – in one case a retired engineer came with his wife in the expectation that he was going to build a school, instead he ended up spending his time working on the NGO manager’s garden. The same NGO I believe also ran an “orphanage” in which they convinced poor families to send their children to stay there, and then they housed the “orphans” in the basement of their large home, bringing them up to the main part when the volunteers came during the day, and sending them back down once they left. I think this kind of orphanage scam is quite common around the world. This is why you have these problems in Africa with Europeans going to adopt children from orphanages, then it turns out they actually have parents, who just thought they were getting their children taken care of for free. Then the Europeans are made to look like evil, child-stealing racists.

    The group I was with seemed very honest, but even then it was hard to see any real progress. The blogger was definitely right when he said the most important thing is that the people want change. You just can’t force people to do anything.

  3. We still have impoverished people in our own midst, here in Canada and the States; I wish people who go overseas would consider instead helping them out. Charity begins at home, after all, as the old saying goes… I think we can do more good, in our own backyards, first.

    • You’re right. It can’t be denied that people going overseas are often trying to combine charity with adventure.

      • Exactly; sightseeing in another country, enjoying their food, drink, women / men. All the while, getting that warm, self-congratulatory glow from having helped others.

        Oh, did I say that out loud? 😉

  4. Oh, also, I suspect a lot of the reason this keeps on going decade after decade is that people are reluctant to admit that they didn’t accomplish anything. So there are always many testimonials about the importance of the work, and how it is life changing, etc. Which in turn drives more volunteers out into the world.

    For example, I volunteered with a woman who was there for a week or two, teaching a couple classes of young children. Now, these classes had no one before her, and no one after her, and I know she struggled during the time she was there. It is almost certain that absolutely nothing was accomplished. Nevertheless, she dutifully sent in a testimonial talking about the importance of the work and how rewarding it was.

    The majority of volunteers are women, and I can’t help thinking sometimes that they are often seeking the feeling of being nurturing and compassionate, with a sort of indifference to the reality. Kind of like sex tourism, but compassion tourism.

    • The other thing is, with Christian women at least, many of them feel they have to be doing something ‘important’ with their lives, until they meet a man to marry, so doing overseas charity work gets them nods of approval from their church communities, and yeah, they get to indulge their maternal / feminine compassion / nurturing / caring instincts. Win-win!

      I’m a cynic, I know…

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