I remember exactly what I was doing on January 12 at 4:52, 2010. Well I guess more correctly, I remember exactly what I was doing about 45 minutes later when I received a call to turn on the television and I remember how the next few days played out. And I remember that I spent those days in a bit of a daze of shock and tears. I also remember thinking that what I was feeling was nothing compared to what people in Haiti were experiencing.
Three years ago. Already.
This month we are remembering that day and the shaking that brought so much destruction to Haiti. There have been a number of articles published this month discussing what has and what has not happened in these last three years. Some interesting reading for sure. Then the other day we were entertaining some guests visiting Haiti for the first time and one gentleman asked me a question something like this: in your opinion, what is the most important issue that when addressed will turn this country around?
The short answer is that there isn’t one thing that Haitians (or outsiders swooping in) can do to ‘fix’ Haiti. When I think about all of this an image that comes to mind is our body – all of our parts need to work together to function well. If someone is in a car accident and they have broken body parts and other internal injuries the medical team must work to help the body fix all of its self. And often healing in one area is connected to healing in another area of the body. It is complex.
The issues in Haiti are so very complex. Everything is important – education, health, human rights and justice, job creation, food security, infrastructure, affordable housing etc. It is not possible to simply believe that if the World Food Program hands out enough food in a month or if teams come and build enough houses for people everything else will fall into place.
Let’s just look at education and see how everything else connects to it.
Education is important. Getting every eligible kid in school should be a priority. But just having kids go to a school building doesn’t fix much. Students need to be receiving a quality education, one that doesn’t only teach them what they need to know to pass a state exam. They need to be learning skills. Teachers need to receive education to have the capacity to do their job well.
Food security is important to education. If kids go to school hungry they will not learn well. If children are chronically undernourished, their brains are already functioning below the level that God originally empowered them be.
Health is important to education. Education about good hygiene will help keep people from getting ill. Children can miss so much school because of illness that they end up repeating grades. Mothers who believe that giving a bottle instead of the breast (because that’s the North American message that has been promoted here for too long) often deny their children good nutrition to develop healthy brains because they cannot afford to give formula the way it is supposed to be prepared (ratios of water to powder).
Spending money on infrastructure is important for education. Just as in both Canada and the United States construction projects connected to infrastructure are ways to promote job creation. Jobs, even if temporary, stimulate the economy. Better roads allow people to travel to markets more easily and allow better access to potential employment. Better lighting on roads in some cases can allow schools to offer more classes because if the roads are lit, children can arrive and leave the school grounds with greater safety.
Permanent job creation will provide people with the funds to send some, more or all of their children to school. Better incomes mean that children can stay in school longer, learn more and become better equipped to be the next generation of leaders of the country.
There is hope but unfortunately not a quick fix. Even with a lot of money from the global community (16 billion has been allocated from 2010 to 2020. As of Dec 2012 a little over 48% has been disbursed with more than half of this amount being for relief aid not reconstruction/development) it is not possible for any of these areas to be ‘repaired’ in three years. The rebuilding process will take many, many years; years of hard work by the Haitian people; years in which they will need encouragement, prayer and other people who will walk and work alongside them.