Imagine if you will; the only images of America that the world saw, were the cornfields of Iowa. Imagine if the world only saw Americans as farmers in overalls, if the images of America were only of cows and chickens running in a yard while children play without shoes; no one would ever know that America is also made up of bustling cities full of people. America is multifaceted; with rich and poor, and good and bad.
Would you want to come to a country where there was a single narrative? Would you want o spend time in a country where everything was told from the same negative perspective; Well, that is what has been done to Haiti.
From the moment I stepped off the airplane and onto the tarmac in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, I felt like I was swimming through the air; see, there’s something different about the air in Haiti. The air in Haiti is thick, and if it had a color; it would be gray-blue. It’s January; I thought it would feel like summer, but it feels more like spring, and instantly I wish I had brought a jacket. My first experience riding in a Tap tap; a narrow truck that rides up and down the streets picking up and dropping off people at work and school, was eye-opening! There weren’t any windows, but I could see through the wooden planks on the side, and the back of the Tap tap was open; that’s how people get off and on in the middle of traffic.
It took us an hour to get from the airport to the guest house in Thomassin 32, I was told, the distance from the airport to the house is only about 20 minutes but the traffic chaos adds the extra time, there are few stop signs and traffic lights (I only saw two.) Within ten minutes, I see teenage boys in traffic trying to wipe windshields for money; they had on flip-flops, shorts and long-sleeved zip-up Nike jackets. I saw trash on the streets, unpaved roads and the unimaginable poverty that is the constant narrative of Haiti; and I thought “why am I here?”
The conditions in some parts of Haiti are tough. They bothered me. In all accounts, Haiti should be a strong nation. Haiti has an amazing history, filled with triumphs of its people. Haiti is the second free nation in the Americas, and the only nation to become free after a successful slave revolt. The people of Haiti are strong, the land is rich and beautiful, but why hasn’t the nation lived up to its God-given potential?
Education is the key to the growth and development in Haiti. The nation can only grow if the people are informed.
But there’s another side of Haiti, the Haiti that you don’t see, the Haiti that Donald Trump doesn’t want us to realize. Among all the poverty, there are the wealthy; but not a strong middle class, so that’s what makes the poverty seem so prevalent here. Many people value education, all of the people want better conditions. The people of Haiti love their country and their people. I visited the Successful Institute in Port-au-Prince; the students there learn English, and take art classes; and they are amazing! The students represent the future of Haiti, they are the visionaries, and the forward thinking-generation that will help to turn the country around. Yes, the children are our future.
People in Haiti are proud; but it’s the lack of education that keeps the pride from producing. People here want to do better, but they don’t know how; education is the key to opening that door that has been closed on the Haitian people. Only 20 percent of the population go to school and over 60% can’t read and write.
Haiti is not a sh*t-hole country; the conditions that the people are forced to live in are sh*t-hole like but that all can and will change. There is a bright hope for Haiti, but only through education can that hope be filled. The Haitian government may not be willing or able to make it happen; but anyone who cares about Haiti can do their part. First, you must visit Haiti, you must talk and interact with the people; you must give your time, talents and money to the education and preservation on the history and culture. And then you must change the narrative of what the world thinks of Haiti; yes, things may be bad in some areas of Haiti, but there is also a bright future here. #changethestory