I have been intimately involved with the relief and reconstruction efforts in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake. Our organization, Artists for Peace and Justice (APJ), has been supporting medical and general relief operations at St. Damien Hospital in Port-au-Prince. Recently we opened the seventh grade of the first free secondary school for the children of the slums, the Academy for Peace and Justice. APJ has spend over $3,000,000 since the earthquake, representing 95 percent of all the funds raised by the organization this past year.
There are so many great stories of human endurance, determination and goodwill fresh in my mind from this past year. Working with volunteers from around the world has been a great privilege and a hopeful reminder that there is hope for our species after all! But my greatest memories are of the Haitian people. Their strength and dignity in the midst of so much devastation and pain is truly remarkable. It has become a cliche to speak about the resilience of our Haitian friends, but it is a point to be made nonetheless.
I am writing this to make a point about where we are headed with respect to Haiti. The one year anniversary was an opportunity to reiterate all the well known statistics and challenges faced in Haiti: 1.3 million people still displaced with no food or water security, a cholera epidemic complicated by political turmoil following the presidential election. And the uncertainty regarding the fate of billions of dollars worth of pledged help for Haiti. Putting label on the conditions in Haiti is a helpful journalistic practice, but it has no impact on the course of events on the ground. Series of conferences and meetings have not helped us formulate a working solution. Disaster in Haiti does not need to become a self fulfilling prophecy. Disaster in Haiti has been going on for decades. If anything, Haiti needs a self fulfilling case for hope.
On the upcoming two year anniversary of the earthquake, there will be no doubt more statistics about what has not been accomplished. There will be stories about political corruption. Very little of the pledged billions may be released to the Haitians. The people living in camps may be still dealing with inevitability of their condition.
For those of us who have the love and determination to see joy in the face of our Haitian friends, the story is simpler. We bring our attention to the small steps which can improve individual lives. We can help provide food and shelter for a few families. We can help provide medical care. We can build schools where children will get an education and hot meals. We can speak on behalf of our resilient friends. Maybe we can send a message to our ex-presidents who are in charge of all the billions. Maybe we can get them to understand that withholding the money that is donated to Haiti is crimes against humanity.
What we absolutely cannot do is to give up hope. And we can never stop working to make life better for our friends. If we have learned anything from these resilient Haitians whom we love, is that we cannot give up hope.
Please continue to support Haiti.