Thursday, January 14, 2010


I’ve been searching around in my mind for something to write about other than Haiti. Hasn’t worked.

Usually I’m relatively immune to stories of tragedies. They happen all too often. When they do my defense mechanism of avoidance is triggered. From a distance the details merge into a sorry tale of woe that need not be confronted directly.

But this time the scenes of devastation I saw and the stories of horrendous individual suffering got through my protective mechanisms. They keep recurring.

I was in Haiti once, in the mid-1980’s. I went at the invitation of some people who thought the Breakthrough Foundation (which I was running at the time) might be able to weave some magic and help relieve the desperate poverty that was a way of life for so many Haitians. I concluded that the job was too big for us. To really make a difference would take a massive infusion of resources and a serious commitment from the government and other local authorities, none of which was in place.

I’d seen plenty of slums before I visited Cite Soleil and La Saline, the worst Haiti had to offer, so nothing I saw surprised me. Having said that, the conditions exemplified world-class poverty on a massive scale. Not pretty.

I’ve been thinking of those slums this morning. It may be that the residents are surviving better than others. The lack of power, food and water is not new to them. If their flimsy shacks were destroyed, it’s possible fewer people died inside than if they had lived in large concrete structures. That’s pitifully little to hope for, but who knows?

So long as we’re thinking of hope – we can hope that the infusion of support that will come to Haiti from around the world in the next days and months will be the spark that will ignite a real positive transformation in lives of the people of Haiti. That would be a welcome change.


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