Friday, January 29, 2010

keep following the news from Haiti

Blogs from folks I crossed paths with while in Haiti in '08:

Life of a Blan in Haiti
Lemuel Ministries blog
Hopital Bienfaisance/Promise for Haiti

If you're looking for places to donate, here are some reputable options that, because they're small and well connected locally, can get aid to needy people more quickly than some of the big organizations. These are all organizations I worked with while in Haiti and can vouch for.

Hosean International Ministries - housing earthquake refugees in facilities at the camp they run; also working to increase the capacity of their schools in order to get displaced kids back in school; supporting needs at Hopital Bienfaisance; helping with the airstrip in Pignon that is providing another way to get relief supplies into Haiti (since the Port au Prince airport is so clogged)

Hopital Bienfaisance - well-equipped hospital in Pignon, which is outside Port au Prince and has been treating earthquake victims

Lemuel Ministries - one base in Port au Prince and one far outside; also connected to and helping affected ministries and missions closer to PAP

Michael and Karen Broyles - friends who hosted me in Haiti; Michael stayed for a couple weeks after Karen and Kaydence were evacuated; now Mission Aviation Fellowship pilots are rotating through in Haiti; MAF is well-positioned at the PAP airport, where they already have offices and a hangar; they are supporting a flow of relief personnel and supplies and helping with evacuations

Broyles: specific Haiti relief needs

Mission Aviation Fellowship - providing key logistics, communications equipment, and air support in the Haiti relief effort from their long-standing base of Haiti operations

Christian Reformed World Missions - my friend Jenny works for this org but happened to be in the U.S. when the earthquake hit; they've been in Haiti for a while and have a solid network there

One last blog to mention:
Emily Troutman - I don't know this person but her reporting from Haiti is very good. She was there shortly before the 'quake, had left, and is back again.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


I'm reading my way through E.M. Forster's A Passage to India (and need to speed up my reading since my third renewal is almost up, which means I'll have to give the book back to the library soon). For those who've not read it, the novel is set in India during the time of British rule and chronicles the relationships between various Indian and British characters.

I was recently struck by the following passage:
"[Aziz] held up his hand, palm outward, his eyes began to glow, his heart to fill with tenderness. Issuing still farther from his quilt, he recited a poem by Ghalib. It had no connection with anything that had gone before, but it came from his heart and spoke to theirs...The squalid bedroom grew quiet; the silly intrigues, the gossip, the shallow discontent were stilled, while words accepted as immortal filled the indifferent air...Of the company, only Hamidullah had any comprehension of poetry. The minds of the others were inferior and rough. Yet they listened with pleasure, because literature had not been divorced from their civilization."

I happened to mention this passage this morning during the wide-ranging discussion of a faith & arts book group I'm part of. We've been reading Lewis Hyde's The Gift and somehow this morning we came to discuss the way the easy access of entertainment has affected people's patience with and access to real art. I confessed that I sometimes wish I could gather friends at my house on a Friday night to read poetry aloud together, because poetry should be communal and audible, but the few times I've sacrificed my coolness ;-) enough to suggest such a thing, there have been no serious takers. :-) Which made me think of this passage. I don't know whether this respect for poetry was ever really true in India or whether it is now, but whether in India or elsewhere there must be places where I might not have such a hard time convincing people to partake of a poetry night. Perhaps I'll get to find those places one day.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

oh, haiti, we weep with you again

As images of Haiti's newest devastation trickle in, the photograph that has thus far resonated most for me in terms of representing this newest chapter in Haiti's hard story is this picture of the collapsed top levels of Haiti's National Palace. (Photo also available here.)

One day at the end of the month I spent in Haiti in July 2008, my Haitian-American friend Jack took me on a field trip to downtown Port-au-Prince, an area that had been the site of riots over food shortages a few months earlier. Even among some of the missionaries this was an area that didn't have the best of reputations. Jack knew the lay of this part of the city's land, though, so we hopped aboard a tap-tap that would take us from Petionville to next-door Port-au-Prince.

And when we arrived in downtown Port-au-Prince what did my wondering eyes behold? Nothing that was remotely scary. Sure, the riots had really happened: there were lingering broken windows as evidence. But there are not riots every day here. The day I was taking in the sights people lounged in the park like they do on nice days in parks down the block from the office I used to work at in Washington, DC; people went about their business; people sold souvenirs; people went to and fro; people were not menacing.

After nearly four weeks in Haiti, I had been impressed by all the things that don't make it into the bits of news we usually get from the country. I had met Haitians who were working hard for their communities and families. On two occasions new Haitian acquaintances who learned that I was in Haiti as a journalist asked me to tell stories of the good things in Haiti, too, rather than only telling the same stereotypical stories that are always told.

By the time I sat on the tap-tap, frustration was formulating over the reality that the only thing most of America and probably most of the so-called developed world routinely hears about Haiti is that it's the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. This is how the country is identified in nearly every news article that covers anything that happens in the country, which usually means some sort of natural disaster or an account of more political instability. These things are true, but Haiti is much more than these things alone.

And so, on that late July day when I stood in front of the National Palace that I had not previously heard of or seen images of (apparently not as famous as its White House cousin in America) I was surprised by its beauty. I loved its architecture and its gleaming white facade, even its nicely contrasting green iron fence. Regardless of whatever political realities it represented, for me it represented the unexpected beauty I had found in Haiti. It symbolically said that Haiti is not only poor, make-shift shacks stacked upon each other. There is hope for Haiti yet, it said, because there's beauty, pride, ability and hard-working humanity here.

So when I see photos of a demolished National Palace and think of the long rebuilding ahead for that one symbolic building, I weep for Haiti. Once again for me it symbolizes big things: why must Haiti's hard-won beauties be stripped away? How I hope that her people will survive this new blow and build a stronger country in place of the one that collapsed around them today. How I pray for God's mercy on these poor, beautiful people, people created in His image just like the rest of us.

*All photos are from my late July '08 visit.