Thursday, June 24, 2010

Haitian Culture Versus Non-governmental Organizations Culture

By Wadner Pierre

Haiti, so called the poorest country in the American hemisphere, sometimes developing country, and even the capital of NGOs. It is amazing to see how Haitian people have been helping each other with the limited means, and sharing the Haitian values with their brothers
and sisters in their own way after the earthquake.
However, it is amazingly sad to see the way that the NGOs with unlimited means have been helping the earthquake survivors in Haiti. This situation may be seen as an ironic situation in the eyes of some people, and it may be seen as normal situation in the eyes of others. To understand the ongoing situation in Haiti right after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit this country in January 12 this year, it is to understand the Haitian culture, and the imperialism culture, or the NGOs or the dominant culture.

Haitians are a people who have their culture, and their own way to respond in the hardship, or catastrophic situation. On the other words, Haitian people practice what sociologists may call the culture of “togetherness” or in Haitian typical expression is “hand together;” whereas the culture of the NGOs is mainstream culture-based which mostly promote the selfhood, or individual responsibility. The selfhood culture at this point appears to be an embarrassing culture for Haitians to deal with.
For example, Haitians give a great importance to their community leaders. Due the lack of basic infrastructures such as electricity, telephone and Internet, Haitians have created their own way to live and to receive help from outside. That means almost everything has to organize around the community spiritual leadership, and it is sometime spontaneous. Nonetheless, the NGOs seem to minimize this culture when they stress on applying their own culture to help the Haitians.
For example, to register a community to receive food from World Food Program, you will be asked for a physical address for which Haitians almost have no idea. They may ask you to go online first to start the process because everything is online. It is apparently true, but there is not guaranteed to the community almost anything in term of succeeding in this process. Because I did it for my community and until now nothing has been done for Ti Plas Kazo community.
Haitians have been complaining about the way that the NGOs work in Haiti even before the earthquake.  The NGOs in return always blame Haitians for not using the technology as way to get the services that they need from them. Haitians are waiting to meet the NGOs’ representatives in their communities for them to see and experience the situation in which  people  are living in their communities, though NGOs’ representatives see this process as a waste of time and ignore it.
 As the saying says, “ In every case there is always exception.” To be fair, the mainstream culture is mostly seen among the big NGOs like American Red Cross, UNICEF and World Ford Program, or mostly NGOs affiliated to United Nations.  These NGOs have done a poor work before and after the earthquake, or if nothing based on their annual budgets. Therefore, the grassroots nonprofits like Partners In Health/ Zanmi Lasante of Dr. Paul Farmer, What If? Foundation, a California-based nonprofit and many other little nonprofits have been doing such a wonderful work in Haiti for  decades, though their limited budgets.
These nonprofits give native people a voice, they let talk, they act as a good listeners, and this is what make them accountable and reliable, and also praised by people who have benefited from their services. Undisputedly, these nonprofits have practiced a relativism culture; contrary to the big NGOs that have mainly practiced the dominant culture while vainly trying to help Haitian people.
  Another example, at the last Haiti Donors Conference in March 30 in New York, a plan for the rebuilding of Haiti should have presented to the donors. At least three plans were on the table, one from the Haitian government, another one from the Haitian private sector, and finally a last one was from the United States. It seems that the US plan has nothing to see with the  Haitian government plan  based on what people who attended this conference said.
 Thus, even if the International Community may have a good intention to help Haiti; it may be hard for the IC to do so since the IC seems to ignore the  rights of Haitians to decide for their country.  Adopting am mainstream culture rather the Haitian culture in Haiti's problem may be a problem, if not the biggest problem preventing the success of the IC in Haiti, perhaps in so-called third world countries 
 As time goes by, the endless struggle of Haitian people may take longer than it might be, but for sure we, Haitians, we will make it. May the idea of the 1803-1804 continues to be the guide for this generation and for the generations to come.L'union Fait la Force ( United We Stand).... And also, together we are strong, and we can do miracle for our beloved Haiti.