Recently, I got to talk about our job creation project in Haiti to a national audience and last night I finished watching “Poverty, Inc” on Netflix. Made me think about old and new ways of missions/volunteering/development.
Here’s what we are going to continue NOT doing with Floriana.
1) We won’t take large teams. 3, maybe 4, volunteers plus myself. 17 people may all have good intentions but our time and energy and limited resources can be maximized in the week we’re in Haiti by keeping our team compact. I once took a team of 10. It would take nearly 2 hours to get lunch done in a restaurant from start to finish. We once waited nearly an hour in the hot sun for a tap-tap to go by that could take 6 people (I guess about 40 went past us, all full or nearly full. 2-3 could have fit, but we couldn’t split the team). Now I have 2 people/1 translator. We split up with a list of things to do, envelope of money for expenses, and a meeting point - usually somewhere to swim around 4 pm.
2) We won’t stay at mission compounds. If I wanted to hang out with Americans and eat American food, I’d go to America. When we book our rooms at a local, family run hotel (not an International chain), we meet local people - from the gatekeeper to the owner. The Haiti tourist industry is climbing a mountain of negativity to turn itself around. I want to help them on that journey. Plus, we get AC (when electricity is in that part of town), WiFi (if it’s not raining) and a pool (that usually has water in it!) for the best price going.
3) We won’t take junk. Wedding Dresses (clean or cleaned, from 2000 or newer) and bridesmaid or party dresses. Anything that a guest would wear to a wedding. Compact sewing machines that work. Not your kids’ old sneakers/half used colouring books/only-one-piece-missing puzzles. Not old bedding or towels. Not make-up you don’t use anymore. Not VHS tapes. Not any item of clothing you wouldn’t see in an upscale consignment store.
4) We won’t take things from here when we can buy the same there. For example: many groups want to send backpacks of school supplies to Haiti. They pay $14.99 for the bag plus say $20 for items to put in it. That’s $35. Plus shipping to get it where mothers and fathers in the marketplace have a small stall selling THE EXACT SAME product. How can those Haitian small businesses compete with free stuff?! Buy local. Please.
Because of support from friends and family, I get to go back to Haiti for my 12th visit this September. I appreciate the faith that people, near and far, have in this idea of job creation through weddings. I’m not an expert on that country or missions or sustainability...but I plan to be. #learn #change #grow
Love, Nicola x