Because of the political turmoil in Haiti, Faith and Money Network had to cancel its summer Trip of Perspective this year.
FMN travelers could have flown into Port-au-Prince, but navigating streets crammed with protestors and chaos could prevent them from getting around in the city, from meeting with the leaders there they planned to see, and even, potentially, from getting food and water. The blocked streets blocked the FMN contingent from coming.
Tens of thousands of people have filled Port-au-Prince streets to protest recurring electricity blackouts and gasoline shortages, as well as the corruption of yet another national leader. This essay in The New Yorker describes the current situation and includes solid historical references.
In a creative solution to the canceled trip, FMN’s trip participants met online with some of the leaders who were to host them in Haiti. For example, Louis-Henri Mars shared how the organization Lakou Lape brings together businesspeople, social organizations and grassroots communities to build peace and reconciliation in some of Haiti’s most violent neighborhoods. The group also talked online with Chrismas Barjon, a community leader in Ma, a Haitian village that has hosted FMN travelers in recent years, as well as author Steven Werlin, who co-leads a program that has helped more than 8,000 Haitian women improve their families’ economic stability. And Kathy Guilliaume, a Haitian-American who serves on the FMN board, shared her deeply personal experience with (dis)respect for Haitians in the US and in cross-cultural travel to Haiti.
The online conversations were thoughtful and eye-opening (edited, recorded versions are available here), but there’s nothing like being there, and for that experience, we will have to wait until some of the chaos in Haiti subsides and the trips become viable again.
As much as we hate to cancel trips, it’s a small inconvenience compared to what our friends in Haiti are enduring.
Ma is physically distant from the street protests, but distance doesn’t protect Ma from economic hardship caused by the country’s stand-off. Ma is an agrarian community, largely self-sufficient in basic needs, but every community needs some cash income to secure medical care, clothing and other things beyond their own production. For Ma, a major source of income is to sell crops to wholesalers, who then sell to urban consumers. In today’s conditions, wholesalers can’t get into cities to sell, and urban consumers can’t regularly get into stores, leaving the people of Ma without cash income.
Simultaneously, prices have soared more than 19 percent this year, attributable in large part to price spikes for food, transportation and utilities.
Higher prices and lower incomes leave the people of Ma and other communities like them struggling.
At Faith and Money Network, we say we are about moving from a sense of scarcity to one of abundance, from partial to total solidarity, and from general desires to specific actions.
Through the lens of the current political conflict in Haiti, what does total solidarity look like? What can we do?
As a first step, we can stay informed. US media seldom cover Haitian news, but you can find regular English-language updates at The Haitian Times and Democracy Now.
And please pray for our beloved Haitian partners. We are communicating with them regularly, and they know we are concerned about them and planning a response in genuine solidarity.
In upcoming newsletters, we will share more about what we can do to stand in solidarity with the people of Haiti.
–Susan Taylor, traveler with FMN to Haiti in 2015; posted 11/19/2019