Did you know Bill and Hillary Clinton went to Haiti on their honeymoon? Yes, it is now the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and has been hit with multiple disasters in the last decade (hurricanes, earthquake, cholera epidemic), but my dream is that within my lifetime, Haiti will be restored in such a way that it will fulfill its potential, and become a tourist destination like so many countries nearby. I mean, just look at this tourism site for Jacmel!

Most Americans know about the Louisiana Purchase- Jefferson bought a bunch of land from France for a low price, pretty much doubling the size of the United States. Why did Napoleon sell it so cheaply? Partly because the slaves in the French colony of Haiti revolted and overthrew their captors. The Haitian Revolution, or the only successful slave revolt in history, gave the former Haitian slaves independence over their French colonists. Because of this, Napoleon lost money, people, and faith in expanding France’s kingdom. In need of money and uncertain of his country’s future, he decided to sell his territory to Jefferson, and at a great price. Unfortunately, this also bankrupted the newly created independent country of Haiti and it didn’t become prosperous.

So what now? There are many great organizations working in Haiti, but in my opinion, many of them harm as they help. For example, if an NGO (non-governmental organization) is willing to pay twice the normal rate of rent, why would a landlord rent to a Haitian for the previous going rate? This drives up prices throughout the country. And if an NGO is willing to provide free medical care, why would people go to local clinics and hospitals? If food and clothing are given away freely, why would people buy them? These actions cost Haitians jobs. This is not to say that starving and sick people with no money should be left to fend for themselves. However, it is something that should be taken into consideration. NGOs should work hand-in-hand with Haitians so that they can help to provide jobs rather than take their jobs.

Some of the best organizations that I have found that work together with local communities are: Partners in Health (medical care, worldwide), Kiva (microlending, worldwide), Zafen (microlending, Haiti).

Of course I must mention the organization run in part by me, and in a much bigger part by a handful of my friends, Jakmel Ekspresyons. This is an arts center, the only LGBT-friendly, and handicapped-friendly arts center in Haiti (to our knowledge). We are currently raising funds for rent for the next year. Rent is much higher than most people think because it skyrocketed after the earthquake when there were suddenly fewer buildings to rent and more people/agencies that wanted to rent them. Our IndieGoGo campaign details exactly what we are raising money for, and showcases our donor gifts! People in Haiti need not only food, shelter, and water. They also need creative outlets, and safe places to share their stories and their work.

This cyber Monday, please remember not only your friends and family, but also people worldwide (including Haiti) whose lives could change because of your generosity.


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