An Important Update from CHP Director Wynn Walent
The protests and violence that have brought international attention to Haiti over the past ten days have occurred mostly in Port-au-Prince and a few other major cities. There have been a handful of small protests in our sister community of Petit Trou and I’m glad to report that they have all been peaceful. We keep in daily contact with our leadership in Haiti; they are concerned about the protests but they are safe, sound, and well.
Peaceful demonstrations began as part of a movement to impel elected officials to conduct an investigation around misuse of state funds. Over time these protests have been co-opted, hijacked and distorted by violent and lawless elements. These violent, cynical, and disruptive actions have gained the most attention.
In my previous work, I lived in Port au Prince for over two years and have many friends there. Most of these friends hope for an investigation regarding the funds in question; most of them are saddened by the lack of progress in Haiti; most of them are disenchanted with the political situation; most of them believe real and systemic change is needed; and most of them are deeply concerned about inflation and the plummeting value of Haitian currency. Some of these friends participated in the initial non-violent marches, but no one I know condones the current violence and destruction.
Much of what has occurred over the past week is tragic and it’s been hard to watch from here. Food and fuel shortages are real and, as usual, the most vulnerable have suffered the most. Even before we saw tires burning in the streets there have been unmistakable signs of despair in Port-au Prince over the past year. Just a few weeks ago 28 Haitian migrants died off the coast of the Bahamas in search of a better life. This image is heartbreaking.
What do we do with our heartbreak?
CHP is founded on the belief that we can play a humble yet determined role in enabling one special community to have access to the tools it needs to thrive. The local leaders we work with in health, agriculture, education, and girls’ empowerment are forging a new path with their community. While our work together is a drop in a larger bucket, it is a hopeful, dedicated, and powerful drop.
We don’t know what the coming days and weeks will hold for Haiti. This past weekend was calmer, but the situation remains volatile and unpredictable. While we are monitoring the situation closely and talking with friends in Port au Prince, we also continue to work with urgency to support leaders and families in Petit Trou.
Later this week you’ll receive an email about this year’s Evening for Haiti on Sunday, April 28. You may see in our updates section information on a 30k run in Petit Trou in April. On Facebook you’ll see photos captured by Teresa Henry, currently in Petit Trou, highlighting progress in our agricultural programs. I could understand how these things might seem incongruent with the Haiti headlines of these days. I respectfully submit that they are not.
This year we’re celebrating our 30th anniversary in Petit Trou. Thirty years from now, what will Petit Trou look like? What will our Kindergarteners at St. Paul’s School be able to build and create together over that time? When we see headlines that may encourage others to throw up their hands, it’s more important than ever that we respond emphatically with hope, solidarity, and commitment. There is nothing cynical about the laughter of our current Kindergarteners, the light in their eyes, and the possibilities that lay in front of them.
We are right to lend our thoughts and prayers to the current trouble in Haiti. We keep our actions focused on what comes next.