Two years ago, Port au Prince, Haiti, shook from an earthquake that would kill nearly a quarter of a million people, leave a million more homeless, and set the country's development back decades. When World Vision and a host of other relief agencies and governments initially responded, we sensed an opportunity to not only supply immediate care but to assist Haiti onto a permanent path to prosperity.
Helping people lift themselves out of poverty is a complex task, involving technical issues in agriculture, infrastructure, and health; social issues like the treatment of women and education for children; as well as spiritual, moral, and political concerns. NGOs and governments understand well these complexities, and yet, in Haiti, even our best practices have been put to the test. The work has been daunting, often with modest accomplishments. Even the most stalwart among us have sometimes wondered whether we could show the kind of success in Haiti that we hoped for.
To be sure, the problems in Haiti are tremendous. Even before the earthquake, the country had the poorest economy in the Western hemisphere, with 4 of every 10 household unable to access basic nutritional needs. Only one in every 50 Haitians has a steady, wage-earning job. Today, a half-million people are still living in tents. A cholera epidemic has infected nearly 500,000 people, and in an ironic twist the disease's presence in the country is being blamed on UN peacekeepers.
Many also blame development organizations for creating dependency among Haitians. It takes a deep understanding of the culture and the people's needs, as well as a long-term presence to help without creating problems. Yet even after 30 years in the country, World Vision has experienced its own ...