First of all, I have several pictures below I'd love to share with you from my recent trip to Haiti. It's surreal to me that a week ago, I was in Haiti -- hosted by the good folks at World Concern. The primary reason was to assess the work they've done and grasp a glimpse of the strategy ahead -- for them and other organizations.
There really is much to share but I just don't have the bandwidth so I'll just share couple brief reflections:
1. Despite being glued to the TV during the days and weeks post quake, I was still stunned by what I saw in Haiti during my time -- and this was two months after the quake. I can't even imagine what it must have been like during my time there.
2. EVERYONE was impacted by the earthquake. You can sense that there is a collective grief and a desire for a collective hope. Over couple days, we interviewed eight random women and five of them had lost at least one of their children.
3. While the need for food, water, and medicine are no longer as urgent as in the initial weeks, there is nevertheless an ongoing need. Having said that, two growing needs (in my opinion) are homes and jobs. There was a 70%+ unemployment rate even before the earthquake and I've heard that the figure has grown to 80%+. These are really complex situations with no easy answers.
It's also rainy season and hurricane season usually arrives in June. I've never prayed for weather because it just seems so silly but I found myself praying like crazy for a non-eventful hurricane year this year (like last year). Please, Lord. Yes, there are still a need for tents but rebuilding homes need to happen sooner than later.
4. During my time there, I was encouraged by the work of World Concern -- an organization that has been in Haiti since 1978 and has come alongside about 125,000 Haitians. Their 100+ staff is comprised of local Haitians who understand their context and culture. For obvious reasons, couple ex-pats were flown with expertise in disaster response and it was so important because so many people were going through their personal trauma.
I was able to witness the launch of their "cash for work" program. By giving some basic structure, they give local Haitians jobs to remove rubble and eventually start building the homes in their neighborhoods. It's so important not to perpetuate a dependency mindset but instead, to empower the Haitians to make their own decisions. How important is this? Make sure you check out this video and you'll see why this is such an important part of the rebuilding efforts:
I returned back to the States realizing that "we" can't rebuilt Haiti for Haitians. They need to do that for themselves and while this quake is unlike anything they've ever experienced before, we can certainly come alongside them. Yes, there is a heavy presence of nearly 1,000 NGOs in Haiti and while there's both healthy and unhealthy relief work going on, the story should be about Haitians. I was inspired by the Haitians. I was inspired by the Church in Haiti. I was inspired by many of the young women and men that wanted to have a voice in rebuilding their country. Yes, the essentials are necessary -- food, water, medicine, housing -- but the greatest asset might indeed be something called opportunity.
Only Haitians can rebuild Haiti but I'm hoping to share with you in the coming weeks how we can come alongside them in the next step of the rebuilding efforts.
Here are some pictures from our trip:
Eugene Cho, a second-generation Korean-American, is the founder and lead pastor of Quest Church in Seattle and the executive director of Q Cafe, an innovative nonprofit neighborhood café and music venue. You can stalk him at his blog or follow him on Twitter. He and his wife are also launching a grassroots movement, One Day's Wages, to fight extreme global poverty.