Thursday, January 21, 2010

Better to Light One Candle...

See Elaine Hopkins post regarding local support of Haiti.

Pictured to the right is a small Haitian Hearts patient with her mom.

Also, see Pam Adams article below.

Let's not fail poor Haiti again

Pam Adams

Journal Star
Posted Jan 20, 2010 @ 10:30 PM
Haiti is never far from central Illinois.

No further than right around the corner or just down the block, there's a neighbor who cared for, maybe adopted, a Haitian child brought here for heart surgery through the Haitian Hearts program.

Or a cousin who travels there often on medical mission trips with Friends of the Children of Haiti.

Or a co-worker who's involved with Haiti Mission Connection, another Peoria-based group that organizes medical mission trips to Haiti.

There's a friend who was a foster mom to teenage refugees fleeing Haiti in the 1980s, or a member of one of many area churches that do the trips, raise the money to help feed, house and school Haiti's poorest.

Even before the earthquake, Haiti and its problems had been growing closer to central Illinois. One friend, one church, one co-worker, one cousin, one neighbor is connected to 10, and 10 are connected to hundreds who give time, money or compassion to the island nation best known as one of the poorest countries in the world, the absolute poorest in the western hemisphere.

Poor Haiti. Already doomed to dependence on the kindness of strangers, and now a major earthquake has crushed the country to the bone, leaving much of the capital, Port-au-Prince, in ruin, displacing some 3 million people and who-knows-how-many tens of thousands dead.

To go to Haiti 30 years ago was to return to central Illinois with a sublime appreciation for the marvel of running water and traffic stoplights. To go to Haiti today is to confront wreckage that leads a coordinator of Doctors Without Borders to tell the Associated Press, "We were forced to buy a saw in the market to continue the amputations."

Poor Haiti. With each passing day, the death toll climbs as deaths due to natural disaster give way to deaths due to the man-made disasters that hinder aid to the injured, avoidable deaths brought on by the economic and political poverty that leaves Haiti's social infrastructure virtually paralyzed in the aftermath of a massive earthquake.

Central Illinois and Haiti are close. Haiti and the United States are linked.

The barren land known as Haiti was once a fertile colony of France. It was France's richest colony, producing at various times in its very early history three-fourths of the world's sugar, coffee, rum and cotton.

If the United States was the first independent nation in the Americas, Haiti was the second. Both countries share a history of revolution to overthrow colonial masters. After that, the histories diverge. An independent U.S. feared an independent neighbor where slaves had overthrown slave masters. The U.S. went on to become the richest country in the hemisphere, Haiti the poorest.

As one partial explanation of Haiti's persistent poverty goes, in Haiti, slaves overthrew their masters and Haitians have been paying for it ever since - beginning with billions paid, essentially in reparations to the French, to gain diplomatic recognition from the rest of the world.

Haiti's own legacy of corrupt regimes combined with our own often disastrous political, economic and immigration policies toward Haiti have continued almost to this day.

"For some of us Haiti is a neighbor and, for others of us, it is a place of historic and cultural ties," former President Bill Clinton told the Washington Post. "But for all of us it is now a test of resolve and commitment."

Current President Barack Obama has promised the U.S. will not fail the test.

U.S. policies toward Haiti have not always been as benevolent as the efforts of the friend, the church, the co-worker, the cousin, the neighbor in central Illinois. But if there was ever opportunity in disaster, it's time for this nation's long-term policies toward Haiti to get closer to what Haiti needs rather than what the U.S. wants.

Pam Adams is a columnist with the Journal Star. Her e-mail address is

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