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Can You Hear Haiti’s People?


I’ve been in the international development industry for nearly 10 years (yes, I call it an industry because I have yet to find a humanitarian aid group that has worked itself out of a job) and in that time I found it very difficult to hear the voices of people in developing countries. Most folks hear the voices of pundits, politicians, UN officials, government-supported NGO’s but rarely do they hear from the people affected by poverty, disease, lack of water and education. As a writer, photographer and videographer I’ve been blessed to actually interview people affected by the world’s ills and hear their suggestions and hopes for transformation. It’s amazing what they say. That’s why I felt so honored to travel to #Haiti with Gladys Thomas.

A Haitian Vision Beyond Expectations

Gladys, pictured here with a generator donated by Baldor Electric Co., was born in #Haiti, was educated in the States and returned to #Haiti with a burning desire to help transform her country for the better. People called her crazy. Other HAITIANS called her crazy. But here vision was just too big for her to forget. So she returned to Haiti and without government help, and almost no humanitarian aid industry funding she built an orphanage, then a school, a hospital and when she came across an abandoned home filled with disabled children alone and living in filth, the built an orphanage for children with special needs. Despite struggling with Haiti’s often unstable, corrupt and unpredictable government Gladys has achieved her vision beyond anyone’s expectations. And she still has more to come.
Haitian Voice Is Heard
When Gladys began talking about a vision to have a technologically advanced university campus for Haitian students in her care I’ll admit I was taken aback. I wasn’t skeptical, four days with Gladys had convinced me that she could do anything she set her mind to, but I was fearful. Fearful the vision was too large. Then I had to smile ruefully when she began to describe her dream to have a campus to teach technical skills to Haitian kids and someone mentioned a vocational school and she shook her head. “No,” she said emphatically. “Have you heard of MIT?” I smiled. She made sure her voice was heard. The cynic in me things if Haitians lived up to the expectations others in the world had for them the country would not fare much better than it is doing now. But Gladys has a bigger vision for her country’s success. And I’m working with the United States Foundation for the Children of Haiti, the all-volunteer U.S. foundation that supports her to ensure that vision is realized. Because there is nothing I like more than proving people wrong.
Haitian First Attitude
So when I see 10,000 Haitians burning donated farming seeds in effigy I can’t help but do a fist-pump. The flood of humanitarian aid flowing into Haiti is intended to help but some will actually hurt because it will deflate the local economy, what little there is of it. In a country where 4% of the country controls 60% of the wealth, a stimulated economy is a necessity to getting Haiti back on its feet. Gladys employs 135 Haitians, including doctors, psychiatrists and other specialists. We need to support more outfits like hers by expecting less paper and allowing them to work, not dictating what they need but listening to what they ask for and by not overflowing them with earthquake voluntourism but offer support to their vision of the future instead of dictating them our own dreams.

Momento simbólico de quema de la semillas de monsanto from AgwoEko on Vimeo.

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