Here’s some of my observations as a missionary living in Haiti with the desire to help the Haitian people, see the good in Haitian people, and keep things in perspective. I hope that this can shed some light on the real situation. I hope that this can bring some comfort to some and alleviate much fear. These are just my observations. I live in Jacmel, not in the center of Port au Prince, although I passed through some of Port au Prince today on my way back home to Jacmel.
What I see as an unfortunate thing is that the media is giving, as they often do, the worst of the worst stories. They are painting a picture of Haiti that I do not see as really true. Yes, the earthquake has killed many. Yes, thousands upon thousands of homes have been destroyed. Yes, you can smell dead bodies lying underneath piles of rubble. Yes, there have been instances of looting and violence in certain areas of Port au Prince. But not all of Haiti, not even all of Port au Prince and Jacmel are like this all throughout.
There are many places in Port au Prince that look like life is trying to resume for the most part. People are selling their goods at the market. Children are playing. And there is that familiar sweetness that I have seen in many Haitian people that is there today as true as ever. Remember, I don’t live in Cite de Sole, which even without an earthquake breeds lots of violence. I also don’t live in the middle of Port au Prince, which also can be problematic without any natural disasters.
I drove through the outskirts of Port au Prince yesterday when my friend picked me up from the airport when I got stranded. I was waiting for him for about 45 minutes outside the small airport and there was no security. I was fine. I didn’t have any problems. Today, I was waiting outside in Titanyen (just outside of Port au Prince) for my friend to come and pick me up from Jacmel via moto taxi so that I could get home. I didn’t have any problems. There were 2 Haitian guys that were standing right where I was. They had broken down because their truck ran out of gas and there was no place to get gas. I talked with them for a while. They were hungry. They were broke. I had a backpack on holding my laptop computer. I was fine. They were friendly to me as I was friendly to them. Now, I wouldn’t go walking into Cite de Sole with that backpack. And I wouldn’t go walking into some places in Port au Prince. But I would walk in Jacmel. I would walk in Titanyen. I would walk in many places, even places that have been hit hard by the quake.
The point is that not all Haitian people turn violent when they are desperate. And I think that the media is portraying that all throughout Haiti there is crazy hysteria and violence taking place. It is not. They are trying to write the best story. They are trying to outdo the other media. If a media person sees 2 guys having an argument in the street over a bottle of water, they seem to turn around and put the headlines, “Violence in Haiti continues daily as food rations are not reaching enough people.” It’s simply exaggerated to such a huge degree. And you know what this does right? It makes people worried sick when they think of loved ones that are in Haiti.
Like I said, Haiti has suffered a massive quake. This we all know. It is a major crisis. But for many, life is just trying to get back to as normal as possible. The haitian people that I have been seeing all throughout this crisis have been the coolest and sweetest people. Sure, there are some bad eggs in there, but for the most part Haitians are sweet. And the fact that as a missionary family, we have reached out to them with selfless love and are trying to help them with their needs, they have been even more sweet and kind.
So, to those of you (mostly family and friends) that have been freaking out because you have been glued to the television, don’t believe everything you hear. Contact missionaries who are living here through this. Ask them what it is really like. You will get an answer that reflects more of the truth than one that is seeking glory.
Today, I had to go from Titanyen (north of port au prince) all the way back home to Jacmel. I had to pass through part of port au prince as well as some outskirt towns of port au prince that got hit really hard by the quake. I had to pass through areas where the media has stated is absolutely crazy, unsafe, violent, etc. That is why I took the precaution of wearing pants, long sleeves, hat, and sunglasses so that people would not be able to easily see that I was a white person driving through with a backpack on. But you know how much violence I saw on this 4 hour trip? None. You know how much looting I saw? None. I probably didn’t need to go to the extreme of covering myself completely. I myself got duped by the media and thought that I was going to be going into mass hysteria. That was not the case.
I did see tons of homes and businesses destroyed. I did smell the dead bodies underneath the rubble. I really did need to wear a mask just for that.
So, the point is that Haiti is ABSOLUTELY desperate for help in so many places, particularly Port au Prince and villages south, even reaching all the way down to Jacmel. So, please continue to keep sending financial contributions to organizations and missions both big and small. We desperately need it. But not all of Haiti is a war zone where we have to be fearful of our lives in trying to help the people. Not even all of Port au Prince is a war zone. There probably are certain parts, but certainly not the majority. I know that there has been some problems with aid vehicles not being able to get through to their intended destinations because the people were bombarding the truck, but seriously, this is not a daily occurrence. These are very isolated incidents compared to all of the other aid trucks that did get through to people who greeted them with big smiles and thankful hearts.
Yes, we did take our 2 little girls out just as a precautionary measure. It was a “just in case” type decision. Plus, having them out frees up my wife and I to be much more able to respond to the people who are in serious crisis.
Remember, this is only MY opinion based on what I have observed while living here in Jacmel, Haiti as a missionary trying to help the people. Perhaps others would disagree, I don’t know. And perhaps this might all change tomorrow if food runs out completely, only the Lord knows. But I am glad to be here in Haiti right now knowing that God has called my wife and I to minister the love of Christ through word and deed to a people who have, for the most part, shown us so much kindness and gratitude in their response.