Seeing the people of Haiti face to face

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
A plane taking off from Port-au-Prince International Airport flew over the Capvva tent city near Cité Soleil as a woman wrung out her wash outside of her tent Aug. 13. The tent city is one of several that popped up across Haiti after Haitians were displaced from their homes by the January 2010 earthquake. A nonprofit organization called Join the Journey has been working with the families in Capvva to help them find more permanent housing as well as to help them find work or start a business. For a gallery of photos, click here.

Special To The Herald

We’ve all probably seen the images hundreds of times. It’s likely you’ve been asked, through your television set, to give a small donation to help a child in need in some faraway land. The children don’t look like us, don’t speak our language and are relatively easy to ignore. I’m quick with the remote in those instances.

Because of that, it was quite a jolt to my sensibilities when I stared into the very real, yellowing eyes of a malnourished child with a bloated stomach and patchy hair. This child was no longer far away, no longer a concept, no longer a statistic. He was flesh and blood. Suffering before my eyes.

Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is, according to the the CIA’s World Factbook at, “the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 80 percent of the population living under the poverty line and 54 percent (living) in abject poverty.”

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
More than 1,000 Haitians dressed in their Sunday best came together starting at 6 o’clock the morning of Aug. 11 to worship at the Blanchard compound church operated by Haiti Outreach Ministries. Worship services at the church can last upward of four hours. For a gallery of photos, click here.

Fourteen people from Christian Church of Jasper spent Aug. 9 to 15 working in a Port-au-Prince orphanage — House of Hope — that the church founded to offer a different life to children mired in poverty with little chance of a way out of it. Eleven girls live in a concrete home, behind a wall topped with razor wire, and are being raised with the hope of impacting change little by little in the nation when they grow up.

It’s easy to look at the impoverished nation and offer criticism about why the country is the way it is. Certainly, the January 2010 earthquake didn’t help any — and probably set the country back years from any progress. It’s also easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who live in conditions not much better than those found on some hog farms in Dubois County. Those factors often make Haiti easy to criticize or brush off.

However, the individual children I met in the Capvva tent city near Cité Soleil are hard to criticize, as they quarreled just like my two daughters, blaming one another for perceived slights. The voices unified in nightly singing in the Blanchard neighborhood church rise and fall in songs of praise to the same God that many Dubois County residents worship. The quest for food, shelter and clothing is the same pursuit all of humanity shares — though some get results more easily than others.

The world is a big place, but it’s also strikingly small sometimes when you’re face to face with images previously seen only in media. Other countries aren’t just concepts. They are comprised of real people, just like ours. Our shared humanity can’t be overlooked.

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