Words from Patrick and Rica During a Troubling Time in Haiti

Dear Friends,

It's a tricky but important moment to share an update on the current situation in Haiti. 

In Haiti broadly, and particularly in Port-au-Prince, things are dire. The term "political unrest" does not quite capture what's happening. The reality is tragic and teetering on the brink of something worse. If you google Haiti today you'll find stories like this, of a pending humanitarian crisis, food insecurity, protestors being killed. Messages I’ve been receiving from friends in Haiti describe the dangerous destabilization of already difficult circumstances. The root cause of the dysfunction and subsequent protests date back many years, and I plan to share more on that with a separate reflection in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, a brief summary of the most recent manifestation of frustration, despair, and violence:

Real and disturbing corruption and mismanagement in the central government has led to widespread anger and disgust. The elimination of an international subsidy program has precipitated debilitating fuel shortages across the country. This shortage has led to increasingly high black market fuel prices. This raise in costs, combined with Haiti’s significantly weakened currency (the Haitian gourde has lost nearly half of its value in the past year) has led to exceptionally high food prices. An inability for goods and people to circulate around the country has created an increasingly desperate situation. We currently see a combination of grassroots protests and a divided, unrestrained, and at times violent political opposition demanding that the president resign. These forces have combined to paralyze the country, and as usual, the hard working poor are bearing the brunt of the crisis.

Petit Trou, our sister community for over thirty years, is calm. The people are following the situation in Port-au-Prince while pushing forward with their lives. St. Paul’s School is open and serving over 350 children with enrollment continuing to grow. Construction on the new school is nearly complete, we are now just waiting on roofing panels from Port-au-Prince, which are stalled due to the unrest. Raphael, our agronomist is distributing plants this week to families participating in a new school-based tree-planting effort. The girls' empowerment clubs are meeting at St. Paul’s and other local schools. CHP-supported health workers are going about their work in the community. The lack of access to fuel, food, and goods, and the continued devaluation of the currency, makes each of these initiatives more difficult.

I spoke with Patrick Desir and Rica Joassaint, two of many talented leaders in Petit Trou, this weekend, and I asked if they would mind sharing a few words with you all. Their words are below, along with photos they sent of their families.

Rica Joassaint:   The situation in Port-au-Prince is worse than it has been in years. It can be overwhelming to think about, but I focus on my family. Luckily my husband is a farmer and I am a professional and a small business woman. We will keep the faith and focus on our family and community and we will make it through – we are blessed. But in reality, the country has reached a new place, and not a good one.

Rica Joassaint: The situation in Port-au-Prince is worse than it has been in years. It can be overwhelming to think about, but I focus on my family. Luckily my husband is a farmer and I am a professional and a small business woman. We will keep the faith and focus on our family and community and we will make it through – we are blessed. But in reality, the country has reached a new place, and not a good one.

Patrick Desir:  I was born in Petit Trou, married in Petit Trou, I built a home in Petit Trou, my extended family lives here with my wife and two sons. Petit Trou is my home and I love it very, very much. We don’t like to complain in Haiti, but the situation in Port-au-Prince is at a new and severe level. It is very serious. In addition to working with CHP I have my own business, selling things that the community needs. It’s hard to keep that moving with the higher costs but we try. We buy food and water from the local markets since trucks are not moving around. Most of all we keep focused on our family and community.

Patrick Desir: I was born in Petit Trou, married in Petit Trou, I built a home in Petit Trou, my extended family lives here with my wife and two sons. Petit Trou is my home and I love it very, very much. We don’t like to complain in Haiti, but the situation in Port-au-Prince is at a new and severe level. It is very serious. In addition to working with CHP I have my own business, selling things that the community needs. It’s hard to keep that moving with the higher costs but we try. We buy food and water from the local markets since trucks are not moving around. Most of all we keep focused on our family and community.

The challenges currently facing Haiti are daunting. Our friends and family there are struggling, and there is no appropriate or accurate reductionist message to share about the short term. In the long term, real and undeniable hope lies in the conviction I hear in Rica’s voice, and in Patrick’s devotion to his community, and in the countless acts of courage that happen every day in response to this tragic and precarious moment. 

As Director of the Colorado Haiti Project I have the good fortune to frequently hear the voices and see the faces of our leaders and their families in Haiti. There is a deeply personal hope that I feel from the strength they exude. It is a gift. I write this morning in a humble attempt to share some small piece of that with you. 

Thank you for your support, solidarity and belief in the future of Haiti.

With gratitude,

Wynn




Wynn Walent