Our very own Kendra Webber spoke at our last meeting about her one week volunteer experience in Haiti’s capital, Port Au Prince. She went through One Love International, a non-profit organization dedicated to short-term humanitarian trips abroad. For one week, Kendra and her organization lent a hand to New Mission and helped feed the children of Haiti. Her experience had left a lasting impact on her life and she shared with us exactly how dire the situation is in Haiti and what we could to help as well.
It has been ten months since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti. Marked as the century’s worst natural disaster, at least 3 million people have been affected and conditions remain as if the earthquake has just happened yesterday. Prior to this catastrophe, Haiti was marked one of the poorest nations in the world. The results of the earthquake further accentuated its poverty with the destruction of buildings trapping its inhabitants in an endless pit of rubble, the absence of government to help rebuild their country, and its complete dependence on foreign aid. Along with the destruction of buildings, municipal records have been destroyed as well leaving many unable to identify where their land lies – however, majority of Haitians did not own land prior to the earthquake. Landless and with no apparent leadership by their government, the Haitians have become refugees in their own country. 80% of Haiti’s educated people have fled the country to the U.S., and leaving the rest blindly wandering for help.
The average life of a Haitian woman is now 46-48 years old, and for men it is 44-46 years old. Many children have been given up by their parents to orphanages so that they could be fed. As of September 1st, 2010 over 1 million refugees still live in tents and Haiti is still considered in its emergency phase. Gangs, crime, and sexual assaults continue to rise daily.
Here is Haiti through the eyes of Kendra:
Kendra had an intense desire to help find a solution and to get the people of Haiti back up on their feet again. But the reality of her experience proved that the situation is far more complex than she had imagined. The efforts of humanitarian aid provided by non-profit organizations did an excellent job of providing the immediate needs of the people, but there was no apparent progress in the long-term reconstruction of the nation. Volunteers for the UN and the U.S. military were present, but what they provided for the people was nothing compared to the efforts of the non-profit organizations. For the future of Haiti, Kendra wishes to see education for all of Haiti’s children, family and sex education, an end to dependency on foreign aid, economic growth, improvement in environment, and removal of the rubble.
Followed by her presentation, we had a lively discussion about the censorship of news and media portrayal of world catastrophes and the controversies behind the reallocation of donations. Some students who were abroad during the Haiti crisis witnessed jarring and graphic media coverage on the television, whereas Americans had a more low-key version on our sets. Some questions that came up:
- Does censorship play in a role on how it affects our views on the daily atrocities of the world?
- Could reduced or no censorship push us to be more active in helping victims of atrocities?
- Or … could it actually make us more used to the atrocities of the world and as a result make us more passive?
Also, there have been some questions regarding donations and where the funds are actually being reallocated. Kendra advised us to avoid donating to Red Cross, because there have been cases where Red Cross would receive the money and have it looted by corrupt individuals. Instead, she encouraged us to research and make sure we know exactly where our money is going to. An alternative way of donating is to purchase products made by Haitians, since the profits directly benefit and help them to become economically self-sufficient. Apparent Products is one such company where 80% of your purchase goes directly to Haiti efforts!
What do you think are some other ways we can make progress happen? Do you have a similar experience as Kendra’s? If so, please share them with us by leaving a comment on this blog.
And for some exciting club updates:
Our YO-GO fundraiser results are in! Thanks to the 72+ students and staff who supported our club by purchasing a YO-GO frozen yogurt, we made $32.50! Every penny counts, and it will surely support our future club activities. Special thanks to the members who took time out of their busy schedules to help promote this fundraiser.
Also, for those of you who pre-ordered a beautifully designed (props to Deanna Lam!) ISSA club t-shirt, please bring in $10 cash to our next meeting, Tuesday, October 26th at SPAA 111, 5:30 PM. Megan Cutler will be our speaker and share with us a little 411 on East Africa.
Finally, please stay tuned for our upcoming film screening (click on the image below for details!):