The worst epidemic in Haiti
“There’s an epidemic in a small port town in Haiti called White Savior-itis and it’s killing all the families in a 3 mile radius.”
- a friend working in said community
I had the opportunity to talk at the Global Health and Innovation conference at Yale last month about the greatest health crisis in Haiti- hypertension, also known as high blood pressure. High blood pressure is killing more people in Haiti than HIV, Tuberculosis, Malaria, and Cholera combined. (High blood pressure won't actually kill you but stroke, heart disease, renal failure, and peripartum cardiomyopathy will).
Today I want to talk to you about what the real and often unknown epidemic is. it's killing the family, it's raising up less capable and whole children, and I hope in 10 or 20 years (or tomorrow would be better) Haitians will say "Why did we do this?!"
This topic is in my face every day but if you live in America where we don't have orphanages, it might not be in yours, so please allow me to share some knowledge I've gained on the field.
It's an appealing concept to the western church to take care of the least of these. This is Biblical. But it's also important to be informed. There's an industry around the world, mostly in developing countries and it centers around orphans. People have found that sad looking children attract money and building orphanages and improving living spaces for 'orphans' attracts money too. So what has happened is well-meaning people have funneled money in and through orphanages to improve the quality of life of children. This is an honorable endeavor, until you look closer and find that 80% of orphans around the world have a living parent and the rest have a living family member.
There's is much more of a crisis of the family, than a crisis of orphans.
In Haiti, an orphanage is treated like a boarding school. The orphanage is responsible for feeding, housing, and educating a child, while the parents may visit the child regularly in the orphanage. Most of the time, the child is expected to return to the community they came from to take care of the family once they leave the orphanage at 18 years old (per law).
So what ends up happening too often than not is well-meaning folks and churches are funneling money through corrupt Haitians who see the value and ‘business model’ in expansion, in more kids that come ‘off the streets’ (or, excuse me, right out of their mother’s home).
LUMOS put out a report on the state of Haitian orphanages in 2016 and essentially stated you can buy a Haitian child for $40 or $70 to put in your orphanage (think $$ per head... and yes there are literal headhunters out there convincing moms their children would be better off in an orphanage).
link here: https://wearelumos.org/sites/default/files/Haiti%20Trafficking%20Report_ENG_web_20EP16.pdf
This message is killing us. It’s killing Haitians- cutting righting their soul. It’s tearing the heart right out of us expats who are living this and seeing the atrocities on the ground. They have to stop. We have to stop this. How, God? How are we to stop this. These are your families and your children and you care about them more than I ever could.
I want Haiti to wake up to these injustices! Wake these mothers up and empower them. I can’t bear to watch this in one more scenario.
If you run a global non-profit, ask yourself some simple questions:
- What is the true need in the community? And how do I know that? Is it from 1 or 2 sources or is it something that the community truly expresses. Keep in mind, the community may not be truly honest with you out of respect.
- Is there an NGO/ ministry/ Haitian run ministry nearby doing similar work?
- Do I have trustworthy people on the ground? PLEASE examine this question. White = money to a country of poverty and even ‘Pastors’ do horrible things in the face of poverty to grow their ‘business model.’
- What is my true intention within my ministry and why am I here?
- Why is it a good idea to solicit Americans to come to Haiti on a regular basis? (There can be very valid answers to this question but I would HIGHLY encourage caution when flooding ‘short term missionaries’ through Haiti)
- Is there a way to partner with an organization with roots in the soil in Haiti and help them expand the work they are doing in a sustainable and life-giving model?
God help us, examine our hearts, see if there is any wicked way in us and lead us to the way everlasting.