by Sara Dessieux
PLH Board Member and Founder
Life in Haiti often feels like one step forward followed by one step back. Making progress in Haiti is so difficult. But currently, we are seeing Haiti taking huge stumbles backwards with no steps forward. Recurrent fuel shortages have turned into a fuel crisis that seems to be the new normal. Constant political protests and roadblocks not only disrupt everyday life, but also turn into violent events in which vehicles and businesses are burned and lives are endangered. Not only has the value of Haiti’s currency plummeted over the last year but prices for food and other necessities have dramatically increased. Then things just snowball from there.
Many kids have yet to start school this year. People cannot find work. Even people with money in the bank and family members overseas who can transfer money for them have limited access to cash. Everyone struggles to find means of transportation. People with cars and motorcycles stay for hours in line and often still aren’t able to buy fuel. Fuel is sold out of barrels on the black market for as much as $10/gallon ‒ four times the standard price. In a country where very little electricity comes through the power lines and people depend heavily on generators, everyone is left in the dark. Hospitals have to shut their doors and the sick, injured and pregnant struggle even more than usual to find medical care. And our dear little island nation seems bent on self-destructing.
We were supposed to be in Haiti right now. Our family had plane tickets to fly down two weeks ago. Yet here we are in Oregon, and nearly every day one of our kids asks us when we’re going to Haiti. And we say, “Not yet. There is still too much trouble going on in Haiti.” We want our kids to keep loving Haiti and not be afraid of it, so we don’t go into much more detail than that. Then we run into friends around town or at church and they too ask, “When are you going to Haiti?” We give them a few more details but still the same answer, we don’t know.
Guesly and I ache to be back in Haiti, as does my sister, Laura, who has been living down there for more than a year but who came to Oregon to speak for our fundraising event. We long to see our friends and staff, launch another soccer season, work with our English students, and help Project Living Hope keep taking steps forward. Yet our sadness about not getting to be down in Haiti is nothing compared to the sadness we feel when we think about all that is going on there.
What is behind all of this? Oh, how I wish I knew the full answer to this. All we can do is make our own evaluations based on the information we have gathered through reading and talking with people. When asked to explain any of Haiti’s problems to someone, I always start with, “It’s complicated.” Every issue is so multi-faceted and has so much history behind it. If I had to sum it up in one word, it would be “corruption.” There is a whole bunch of it and everyone knows it, but it’s still hard to know who the most and the least corrupt players are. That’s the trouble with the current political situation.
A news article in the Miami Herald this weekend proclaimed, “Thousands Rally in Haiti Against President Moise.” But I’d say, “Millions in Haiti Struggle to Go About Daily Life as a Small Percentage of People Call For the Elected President to Resign.” Maybe the president is guilty of corruption, I don’t know, but some of the senators definitely are. They have refused to sit down with the president and they are encouraging the lawless behavior of the protesters, most of whom are unemployed young men who are grasping for any form of control and power they can find, which in this case, is ruining others.
How is all of this impacting Project Living Hope? Our community in Camp Marie has stayed peaceful, and our staff continues to frequent the PLH property and keeps us informed about all happenings. We planned to be well into the second season of the PLH youth soccer league by now, but since people can hardly get around, that has been postponed. The new year of English classes was supposed to launch September 16, the same time this current round of trouble began. With the teachers and many students unable to get to class, we have had to postpone that as well. We will all be so happy when games and classes start up again! We become more convinced all the time that Project Living Hope is on the right track.
Young people need a purpose, they need community, they need moral standards, and they need Jesus. They also need education and employment. We know that empowering Christian Haitian leaders to effectively reach the young people and families around them is what we want to stay focused on. Haiti is actually full of innovative, hardworking, and compassionate young people who want to see their country grow stronger. We just want to help form more people like that to tip the scale away from this cycle of turmoil that Haiti has been stuck in.
Eventually, somehow or another, Haiti will calm down again. And then we will get back to work there. Thank you for believing in the work of Project Living Hope and thank you for caring about Haiti. The Haitian people need you to remember them right now and they need you to pray for them.