If you did not get a chance to read the last 2 blogs, please click here to read the first one and here to read the second so that you can see why we are putting these statements out there. If you currently live in Haiti, have ever lived in Haiti, or even have come down on short-term trips before then we would love to hear your opinion as well…even if it differs from ours. As I have said before, we are trying to make sure that All Things New is always moving forward and trying to help in whatever way we can!
With that said, we believe that the biggest physical need in our area of Haiti is JOB CREATION. I realize that many people will disagree with me for a variety of different reasons, but read the rest of the blog first and then let’s open up a dialogue about this topic. I understand that each of us has our own passion, and that is wonderful, we are supposed to be passionate about our work. In fact, if you are a doctor and want to say that medical resources are Haiti’s biggest need, a teacher and want to say education, a construction worker and want to say safe buildings, a government contractor and want to say roads or waste management, or a missionary and work in a different field other than job creation (like me) and want to say what you are passionate about is the greatest need…That is great. That is how we should operate and we should move forward in whatever area of ministry GOD has called us to work. Again, my heart is not to disparage anyone’s work or to tell anyone that they have the wrong passion or are pursuing the wrong field. I simply want to start the conversation so that you can see why All Things New is looking to take steps into this area of life in Gressier, Haiti.
Let me start with why I believe job creation is such a gigantic need in a country where food can be scarce, education limited, and orphanages are around every corner. I believe that job creation and subsequent economic growth would serve to at least help every other physical problem facing Gressier. Depending on the information that you look at, you will see numbers anywhere from 50% – 84% un/underemployment and the more rural you get (Gressier is a rural area of Haiti) the higher the unemployment. If you let that sink in, it is staggering. The best-case scenario in rural areas of Haiti is that 50% of people are even employed much less make a livable wage and it is more likely that that number is closer to 80%. As Americans, this type of number is difficult to comprehend because you do not see the men sitting on the side of the road playing dominoes with no work to do. You don’t see the women at the market sitting right next to 15 other women selling the exact same mangos for the exact same price while effectively driving down the price as low as possible and making such a small amount of money on their sells that it is almost not worth it. You don’t see the hopeless looks of men and women that we run into every single day of our lives asking for a job so that they can feed their family. It is impossible to describe what 80% un/underemployment looks like without living in it, but try to imagine. At the same time, try to imagine the hopelessness that this type of unemployment brings to a nation. We have an orphanage full of 19 children with 12 of those children 12 years old or older. In the next 10 years each of these children will enter the workforce, potentially start a family, and then settle into their community. When they enter the workforce, what will they find? The answer is probably nothing. This is why I believe that job creation is our area’s biggest physical need.
I also want to take some time to tell you why I think job creation is THE greatest physical need in Gressier even over some of the other obvious contenders:
- Education. If you know Jessica and me personally then you know that this is a very important subject to us. In fact, Jess was a teacher for 8 years prior to our move to Haiti and she absolutely loved it (and was very good). Besides that, Jessica’s Mom is a teacher, my parents are both teachers, both of my sisters are teachers, and both of their husbands are teachers. Needless to say that education runs in our family and we understand the importance of education to individuals and communities. If you have been to Haiti before, then you also know that free public education does not exist for the vast majority of children here. Private schools are the only way most children are educated, and the vast majority of these private schools (not all) are underfunded, not managed well, and staffed by teachers and administrators who may or may not have finished school themselves and almost definitely do not have educational training at a high level. A top notch education is a very serious need in Gressier, but I put it below job creation for a couple of different reasons:
- The hope of a good job based on your education would drive more people to put their children in good schools and more children (as they grow older) to strive to do well and graduate.
- If more parents had jobs they would have the money to send their children to school or to be more particular about which school they choose for them. They could afford to send their children to a better school that was a little further away or a school that was a little more expensive. This would, in theory, force schools to be more competitive to attract the best students.
- If more families had a steady income then more schools would be able to collect the tuition they need to operate at a higher level.
- Feeding Programs. Feeding programs are extremely important because if a person cannot eat then they cannot do anything else. The problem with many feeding programs, however, is that they are started as a form of relief from a specific situation only later to become a way of life. Feeding programs are supposed to be there to help people move forward in their lives until they are physically able to feed themselves. I am not advocating that we come in and shutdown feeding programs and I am not saying they are not important. All I am saying is that we have to figure out how to make feeding programs what they were always supposed to be…A temporary fix until a person can get back on their feet.
- Orphan Care. There are so many different views on this subject, and I have my own opinions and ideas about the role that orphanages, children’s homes, foster care, etc. should play in Haitian society. But, this is neither the time nor the place to share those ideas. What I can and will share right now is that job creation would absolutely revolutionize the way orphan care in Haiti could and should be done. This is not an overstatement by any means. So many new options would be available including but not limited to:
- Parents would have the resources to keep their children with them.
- Other family members could bring in children who have lost parents or help relatives when they fall on tough times.
- Haitians could afford to, and probably would, adopt Haitian children.
- Foster care could become a much more viable option.
I am not saying that job creation would alleviate the need for orphanages and children’s homes immediately, but I am saying that job creation could change the face of orphan care in Haiti just like it has done in America. I also do not believe that job creation should be tied to orphan care. What I mean is that our goal should be to create jobs for the most qualified rather than the most needy or for those who have the most children. I understand the heart of that ministry, but I think creating jobs and tying those jobs to skills and education will be the way to move our community forward for the long term.
One of the biggest challenges facing our community in terms of job creation is the virtual lack of a public sector. Think of the jobs in the community where you live. There are many private sector jobs, but many jobs in America are government jobs. Teachers, trash men, politicians, police officers, etc. make up a pretty big percentage of overall workers in America. In fact, if you took away the public sector, the American economy would probably crumble pretty quickly. This sector in Haiti is very small, pays very poorly (unless you are a politician or learn how to earn money under the table), and is very unstable as the government is still in major flux. There are so many things that could be done in the public sector in Haiti like building roads, creating an infrastructure for consistent electricity, waste disposal, etc. but this is far from being a reality for many different reasons. However, until the public sector is worked out, it is up to those of us in the private sector to begin figuring out how to create jobs for people who so desperately need and want them.
I still have a little more to say about this topic, and I do have some ideas for how All Things New will get involved in this aspect of Haitian life, but for now this blog has gotten a little wordy. So, Stay tuned for part 2!