17 December 2010

maybe third time will be the charm: why i put haiti on hold

After a lot of debate, I decided for the second time (grr...) during The Global Citizen Project (TGCP) to postpone my volunteer trip to Haiti in January. It was not an easy decision, but I didn’t really have a choice. Haiti was put on hold in June when I launched TGCP because post-earthquake safety conditions had not improved to a point I was comfortable with.

Plans were locked and loaded and tickets were booked for me to go next month to volunteer with Ecoworks International. I was supposed to work with a terrific volunteer, Pete Medalia, a farmer and tree specialist who has taken over the creation of Ecoworks International’s tree nursery. Medalia lives most of the time in Ganthier at Mayor Ralph Lapointe’s house. Ecoworks International also has a small youth center in Ganthier where I was planning on helping teens create a community newsletter/journal. Here is an article about the happenings in Ganthier.

Everything looked like it was going to finally happen until Haiti’s recent November 28th election, which resulted in Michel Martelly (the third place candidate and popular Haitian carnival singer, a.k.a. “Sweet Mickey”), as well as the 12 other candidates contesting the elections.

The basic gist is that everyone is pissed that Martelly got screwed in the election, no one likes Jude Celestin (the candidate who beat Martelly by 6,845 votes for second place) and the response has been gunfire, barricades, riots, police confrontations and a run off election slated to take place during my volunteer stay. Election results can take up to two weeks to receive. The powers-that-be at my host volunteer organization expressed extreme worry for my safety in coming to Haiti at this time, as incoming flights had been cancelled due to the political unrest and as a result, my contact was considering postponing her involvement in a charette project that was planned to coincide timing-wise with my visit.

Over the past seven months of TGCP, I’ve managed to survive dengue fever, bubonic plague, gang violence, tropical storms, mudslides, contaminated water sources, more crime-ridden situations than I care to think about, sub par living conditions and the list goes on. I’m okay with facing crime, weather and health uncertainties (I was all ready to deal with Haiti’s current cholera outbreak – my malaria meds are apparently the first course of pharmaceutical action for infection), but situations of political unrest are the “oh shit” line I’m not willing to cross in the name of giving back. Such scenarios are a wildcard and although I want to help as many people as possible during these 12 months, I’m not exactly prepared to die in the name of this project.

Fingers crossed, I can make this project in Haiti happen in April or May. I love this organization and I’m so inspired by the work they want me to do for youth of Ganthier. And like Ecoworks International, I too am optimistic that the future of Haiti will improve. Big thank yous to Delta and its super efficient Twitter customer service at @deltaassist for being so understanding and helpful in canceling my airline ticket. May the stars align this spring.

Photo courtesy of EcoWorks International

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