In times like these, as humans, we want to help, we want to reach out to those in need, and we want to be generous. But the struggle is, how can we be generous? To whom do we give? How can we best make a difference? Where will our money go if we do give?
If you are struggling with these questions, you are not alone. Unfortunately, there isn't a magic solution, and wrestling with how we can do our part to make the world better is, indeed, an integral part of life on this earth.
But to assist in the enlightenment of how “helping” and “giving” can come in different forms, and end with different results, we share a few stories. Over 11 years ago something similar happened in Haiti when the well known earthquake struck near to the capital, and millions upon millions of dollars were donated. Some of that financial assistance indeed helped the victims; there is no doubt in that.
However, it must be known that MUCH of that money went into the hands of large companies in developed nations who operated agencies and businesses to “repair the damage.” But in reality, most created more chaos and trouble than they were able to repair. Money often does not find it's way to the locals when such large amounts of these aid organization's expenses are needed to pay for international staff salaries, housing, transportation and bonus hazard pay for living in conditions in hardship location. The expenses of buying materials and shipping them in is not only financially costly, but supports producers in their own nation and business gurus with shipping companies rather than putting that money into the hurting local economy. These outside purchases and “donations” end up crushing the already devastated local economy. When you add in the costs of paying bribes, these imported goods financial cost is exorbitant, while the cost on the local economy and dignity of the people is even greater.
Meanwhile, locally there are so many aspects of Haiti that are not known by outside entities. For example, the area of the nation that was most severely affected by this August 14th earthquake is the South West peninsula which has long been, in essence, cut off from the capital by gangs who have blocked the only entrance/exit into/out from Port-au-Prince. During the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew several years ago, huge trucks filled with provisions, supplies, and even money would drive through these areas and bandits would attack the trucks stealing the items inside, and often attacking the drivers and aid workers. This behavior has already begun in the aftermath of this earthquake with many people overtaking trucks filled with provisions saying they are also in need of assistance.
In addition, the nation is desperate, so even though massive help is needed in one area due to a natural disaster, the truth is, help is needed everywhere... so many take the opportunity to take advantage of the situation and benefit from the many aid organizations in any way they can. These efforts to distribute medical supplies, food, lumber, water, anything that can be monetized – is often thwarted due to lack of understanding the lay of the land, social norms, and reality of desperation of brutal poverty.
So, over and over again, in Haiti, huge amounts of money pour in through the generous donations of kind people around the world. The money filters through the hands of rich people, much or most of it stays there, the little that makes its way into the local area is often dispersed poorly, and for sure is seldom distributed in a way that maintains dignity for any receivers.
There aren't easy answers, and we don't pretend to have them, but what we have found over the years with PeaceCYCLE is that the local people really do have the ability to make things better in times of crisis. The problem is that they do not have the resources.
We have been working for nearly 8 years with a goal of “restoring dignity” in Haiti.... and that is not a goal that an assassination, an earthquake, or a hurricane can diminish.
Each human has the desire to be generous, and to give when we see others in trouble. This is the exact feeling you are likely battling with as you sit comfortably on your sofa wondering how to help in this world.
During the tragedy of the earthquake in this past week (the crises in Haiti are getting hard to keep track of) we are blessed to report that our immediate staff is safe. Many have friends and family in the badly affected areas who have lost homes and lives. The information is still coming in with details of some.
Aid is best distributed by friends, relatives, and neighbors. When we receive a gift from a fellow human that we know, we feel the shared burden and we understand the reciprocal solidarity. There is a gentleness, a personal connection, and a sensitivity that comes from this expression of concern of a fellow human who understands your pain and suffering and chooses to travel the path with you. In contrast, aid that is air dropped, delivered by armed soldiers, or given in a line of fighting and pushing resulting in brutal violence for fear the quantity will run out before they reach the line is as undignifying and impersonal as it gets.
If anyone can understand the pain of Haitians suffering the loss of life and housing and security, it is those who lived through the atrocity in 2010 in Port-au-Prince. We now have one group of Haitians who has not suffered greatly, but has first hand experience (those here in the capital city) and a group who is experiencing great loss (those in the south western peninsula). We want to send these messengers of sensitivity and personal generosity to help.
In the past, we have occasionally empowered our staff to “give” by giving them a small bonus and saying they are not permitted to spend it on themselves. This typically resulted in someone paying taptap (local public transport) fees for everyone on board with them, or giving towards medical costs for a neighbor, or helping with the final expenses of a house repair. A contribution towards school fees for a neighbor, or purchasing street food for some children in the neighborhood are ways that our promotions to encourage the staff in reaching out have been lived out.
When we have been asked by some how they can help, we have prayerfully and intentionally pondered this question. We would like to propose two options:
- Purchasing wholesale product from us allows our staff to keep working, continue providing for their family, and maintain dignifying purpose in life. This is an amazing way to “give” in these depressing times. It is a boost of moral for all when they have to pack boxes and count products filling orders of the wonderful items they themselves created. If you would like to do this, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for info about wholesale purchasing. Unfortunately, due to shipping costs and logistics, we are only able to ship large wholesale orders direct from Haiti at this time. Perhaps, if this is more than you are able to manage, you could combine with other groups in your area for one large order.
- We would like to provide an opportunity to empower our employees to be the helpers. We know that they have friends and family and childhood neighbors and others who have lost homes and family members. Funeral costs, blood transfusions, medical supplies, cement, roofing, food, clothing, ….. so many expenses will be incurred, and the one with a job is looked to for support in these times. We know that our staff will be generous with their salary, but we want to empower them to help beyond what their means allow. If you are interested in giving a tax deductible contribution, we plan to give the staff a surprise bonus along with a paid week of time off of work to go into the areas where they know people struggling, and personally make a difference with their time, talent, and treasure! They will be instructed that with their salary secure, they are to spend none of their bonus on themselves, but to find ways to help those who have been severely affected by the earthquake. As we count our blessings that this has not gravely affected our workshop nor our immediate staff. We are looking forward to blessing others in a personal way rather than relying on foreign aid organizations.
We are pleased to say that we have been given the opportunity to partner with the Foundation for International Development Assistance (FIDA) with charitable status in both Canada and the USA and with whom we share similar values for development in Haiti. In order to receive a charitable receipts, please write a check out to FIDA with “PeaceCYCLE' in the memo line. Mail that check to: PeaceCYCLE, 323 N 4th St, Decatur, IN 46733 (online donations are possible and accepted through our website here, but unfortunately we can provide tax deductible option only through a paper check at this time).