What Haiti Really Needs Now – And Doesn’t

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When I was in undergrad, one of my best friends was hospitalized with a collapsed lung. We were blessed with a large community of friends who individually came to visit as soon as they heard the news. I was among the first to visit him at the crack of dawn; others started trickling in shortly after I left. Throughout the day, his hospital room became a revolving door of visitors—people who came to cheer him up, shower him with gifts, and pray for him. Soon enough, the doctors noticed that his recovery rate was slowing from the exhaustion. The blessing had become a curse. And somehow, I was stuck with the responsibility of asking visitors to no longer come.

I now find myself in a similar situation. One of the gut reactions so many individuals and churches have had to the earthquake in Haiti is, “How do I get over there and help?!” I’m going to ask that we pause and ask ourselves, “Is that the best way for us to help Haiti?” In some cases, the answer is a clear “Yes.” However, in many cases, the answer is a disinclined “No.”

These are difficult things – difficult to say, difficult to hear, and difficult to accept. But unless you are bringing a strategic skill set that is indispensible to Haiti, please reconsider going. With two-thirds of Haitians unemployed, there is plenty of general labor available. Additionally, each person who goes means an extra body and mouth at a time when housing accommodations and drinking water are scarce. That one extra accommodation may better benefit a homeless Haitian or a skilled foreign worker. A much more strategic contribution for your church would be to donate the money from your group to employ local Haitians to do work you were hoping to do.

With that in mind, Churches Helping Churches is going to rebuild the local churches with as much paid Haitian labor as possible. This not only meets the objectives of rebuilding the houses of the Lord, but it attacks poverty in a smarter way – through employment rather than handouts. Think about it: that worker now gets to purchase a snack from a street cart, that cart owner now gets to pay for his taxi ride, the taxi driver now… so on and so forth. That ripple effect contributes much more to the Haitian infrastructure than a week of free labor from an American would. It’s not a perfect model, but it’s better. What’s more, that local Haitian worker has now been introduced to a church. After having worked on a church alongside church members for a month, he or she just might be more inclined to check it out.

The Lord has gifted some of us in such a way that we want to be on the front lines and in the trenches. Sacrificing that immediate desire and that experience may be one of the best ways that we can serve Haiti’s recovery from the earthquake in the long-run.

So now, the burning question: How can you help?

  1. Cash:We don’t need clothes, we don’t need books, we don’t need blankets. We need cash. Of the $5.3 billion that has been pledged to Haiti by foreign governments, only 2% has actually been given, so there is a great need for liquid assets on the ground. Any creative ways that you can use to raise and donate money will help build up the local church and employ local Haitians. We’ve posted CHC banners and graphics should you need them for fundraising purposes.
  2. Prayer:Please join us in the prayer, “Lord, multiply our efforts, ideas, and money.”
  3. Skilled workers:If you are an experienced architect or general contractor and are interested in volunteering, please contact us.

This response is specific to today’s relief landscape in Haiti. We’re not against short-term missions, and I don’t want to deflate the compassionate energy that the Lord has stirred up in us. I am pleading for us to prayerfully reconsider and redirect how that energy can be better channeled toward a new Haiti.

The truth in love,
Tom

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