Charles Huschle is a senior associate with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, an international human rights organization based in Cambridge. He recently traveled to Haiti, where UUSC is leading a program to bring volunteers from the United States to help rebuild the lives and livelihoods following the devastating January 2010 earthquake.
it’s as if we’re somehow invested in seeing Haiti as poor and want to keep it that way.
Everywhere we went, there were smiling people. I saw light and hope and happiness, even in the most desperately poor situations.
There were singing people. We were greeted warmly with “Bonjou – ki jon ou ye?—(Hello, how are you?)” There was music, life, activity, energy, hustle and bustle.
The men and women who had moved to the Central Plateau after the earthquake literally shook with gratitude at their new opportunity to live in the country, grow their own food, be part of a sustainable community.
In Port au Prince, there was fantastic art being created by young Haitians. I visited a place called Camp Oasis, where 40 girls, aged 4 to 18, were being housed, cared-for, and educated after being rescued from their camps. Their smiles and laughter were bright and full of hope.
Yes, the government palace remains in ruins nearly two years after the earthquake. And opposite the palace is a huge tent settlement of earthquake survivors. The country doesn’t have the infrastructure or the government or the wealth it needs. And maybe there is a sense of fatalism among some of people.
But I feel a sense of possibility. Haiti wants to grow and thrive, and we could feel that in the people, in their voices, in their amazing energy.
We came away from Haiti happy.