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For too long, Haiti has been in a communication stranglehold. Making a telephone call through the local Teleco station, when it worked, was a long and expensive ordeal. Sending a letter was like buying a lottery ticket - better to send it on the "Diaspora Express" by handing it to someone you know going to the U.S.A. But Haitians now have more communication options than ever before - the impact of cellular technology has been particularly dramatic.
Rotary Club of Miami hosted the first Haiti Networking Event last October in order to bring together organizations that provide assistance to the people of Haiti. The forum allowed for a greater understanding of the extent of aid being provided in various geographic areas of Haiti. More than 40 attendees, representing over 20 organizations, exchanged information in hope of developing partnerships. Several organizations had similar needs and concerns although many had different resources. This meeting became the perfect opportunity to promote discussion and collaboration to further expand projects in Haiti. The next networking event will be hosted by the Rotary Club of Miami and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines on March 15 in Miami, FL.
I don’t fully realize why I put myself through it until days afterwards when the tightness subsides, the soreness in the muscles evaporates and the numbness of my body dissolves making movements like standing, sitting and walking possible without grunting or wincing. It is only after all this that I begin to recall and can share the stories of the many amazing people and encounters had along the road. And it is only after this that I have the mind to really appreciate the beauty of the experience. And equally be astonished by the absurd contrasts of unequivocal spirits against relentlessly hard living. The French poet and philosopher Andre Malraux after visiting Haiti for the first time decades ago said of it, “Surrealism finally has a country.”
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is active in Haiti in a number of different areas. One if its priorities is the prevention of child abuse. In advance of a forum in Vienna next week organized by the UN Global Initiative to Fight Trafficking (UNGIFT), IOM releasd a video to raise awareness of the plight of an estimated 173,000 Haitian children internally trafficked for domestic servitude, known as Restaveks.
The Singapore-based Center for Management Technology has been holding a series of conferences on Jatropha - what it is, what it can do, what it can't do. The next conference will be held in Miami on June 10th - 11th. For those interested in planting, harvesting, and processing the Jatropha plant in Haiti this could be an invaluable networking opportunity.
It was recently brought to my attention that Florida International University offers a Haitian Summer Institute Course each Summer through its Latin American and Carribean Center. The course is designed for individuals who would like to speak Kreyol and understand Haitian history and culture.
I have seen several articles lately concerning the clay biscuits that the poorest of the poor in Haiti eat to make the hunger pangs subside. This is not a new phenomenon. Much of that clay comes from an area in between Hinche and Thomonde, where I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer. We all know Haiti is desperately food insecure, but with hunger being such a complicated issue, do we know what to do in order to respond? What would a Haitian “war against hunger” be like?
Rome Foundation is a Tampa based non profit organization that is involved in building health care infrastructure and in promoting livelihoods in Haiti. Its staff are active in the southern portion of the country and recently secured thirty acress of land in the Petit Goave Area. They are currently raising funds for the establishment of a Jatropha nursery - an innovative way to both fight erosion and create jobs at the same time.
Haitian leaders tend to get bogged down in ever-unstable Port au Prince. It is a matter of political survival. However, most of Haiti is rural and certainly most of what is good about Haiti is to be found outside of its largest city. Recently President Preval made a public tour of the Central Plateau. We were happy to see that public health was a recurring theme of his trip. Regardless of one's political beliefs, we can all agree increased attention to public health is essential. When a person has health, a person has hope. Where there is hope, there is also the possibility of development and a better future.