To Haiti, with hope

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It’s finally happening. I’m going to Haiti.

I was supposed to take this trip a few weeks ago, but due to a spike in its gas prices which led to mass protests and demonstrations, I had to cancel.

That wasn’t the first time I ran into a roadblock getting to Haiti. In 2012 and again in 2016, I came close to directing a children’s organization over there.

When I started working for Plant With Purpose, I asked our director Scott the best way to give myself a crash course in environmental science as it pertained to our work. “Just go to Haiti,” he suggested. “It’ll be extremely obvious how much those farmers rely on environmental conditions.”

At the end of last year, I came close to going, but ran into complications with another trip. Then came last month’s cancellation. Now, finally, I’ll be on my way.

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I’ll be going to meet Plant With Purpose’s local partners and to hear their stories. I’m bringing my friend Lei, a talented filmmaker, and we’re hoping to leave with some great video materials.

I sat down with Scott last week to get his tips on making the film, since he’s interacted way more with Haitian culture than I ever have. He gave me great advice, and then gave me the heads up: when people go to Haiti, they often find what they think they’re going to find.

What that means is:

Some people go on missions trips expecting to see signs of spiritual darkness and curses. They find things to back that up.

Others go expecting to find all kinds of evidence that the NGO sector doesn’t work. They’ll find plenty of that too.

Some people go expecting the look at some of the most miserable human conditions. Guess what? They find it.

I know how self-confirming biases work and everything, but I wonder if Haiti says more about us than anything else.

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I’ve heard a lot about Haiti. I’ve heard some people talk about a sense of despair that shrouds the nation. An angst from political discord and broken infrastructure. I’ve also heard about incredibly resilient people who rise up in spite of all that.

For the sake of my trip, I want Haiti to speak for itself. I want to be a listener, and to hear the stories and experiences people have to share with me.

I think the Haitian people deserve better than to always be a projection screen for our own pre-conceived ideas about the country.

One thing I love about travel is that you can know so much about the world and really know so little in the big picture. You could study a certain region inside and out, visit twenty times, write a doctorate dissertation on its culture, go there for the 21st time, and still find it full of surprises.

That’s why I look forward to this long awaited trip. I’ve heard so much about Haiti, and yet I just know that there is more to the story.

What it is exactly? I’ll just have to get there to find out.

Philippe Lazaroblog, blog18, haiti