Comments: 349 • Responses: 70 • Date: 2013-05-27 13:53:25 UTCsource
dannemans38 karma2013-05-27 14:06:10 UTC
What are some of the worst/weirdest situations you were involved in?
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Throwawayhaiti78 karma2013-05-27 14:33:17 UTC
I have had people working at the Ministry of Education ask me for bribes. I have seen ministers embezzle funds. My life has been threatened twice. The first organisation I had worked with had asked me to allocate certain funds designated to the purchase of ringers lactate (necessary for cholera treatment) to a supplier that was across the globe instead of in the US because the transportation costs would have been higher and we could say more money was spent that way.
The weirdest situation I ever found myself was probably when being invited to a meeting at a restaurant at night. The restaurant was bursting with music, imported steaks, tons of alcohol. Meanwhile, across the street from the restaurant was an IDP camp. This was during cholera too, so as you left the restaurant you could actually hear the moans of people who were being treated at the cholera treatment centre nearby. It was surreal.
IWantToBeNormal6 karma2013-05-27 17:03:40 UTC
With regards to the first: Would it be possible to convincingly play dumb in a way that would allow you to say "Oh yeah I did what you said but someone else higher up the chain caught it and changed it back and then chewed me a new asshole about it"? Or does innocuous cluelessness not serve as an adequate shield against a fatal outcome? Are you certain the threats carried weight?
As for the second, don't feel weirded out. You typed it yourself: "people who were being treated at the cholera treatment centre". That's why shifts exist, so others can work while you relax. All you can do is give your 100% when you're present.
Throwawayhaiti6 karma2013-05-27 18:18:58 UTC
With regards to the first, saying something like that won't get you anywhere. It will stop the action until the very last moment. It's a fascinating study of brinkmanship. Threats don't usually carry weight. If someone wanted to do something to you they will just do it, they wouldn't need to threaten you, however one never really knows and it's always preferable to take steps to reduce your risk.
thatsnotcheese18 karma2013-05-27 14:31:36 UTC
First of all, thank you for your work. You have clearly affected many lives in a positive way. How has it affected your life being down there for so long and witnessing so many things?
Throwawayhaiti47 karma2013-05-27 14:42:16 UTC
Thank you for your kind remarks.
It is depressing work. For a long time I would drink myself to sleep. For a month or two I was punching the wall next to my bed in my sleep as well. It is crazy, I think many people see those who are in my line of work not as human beings. There are always negative comments about how aid workers whore, drink, and do drugs. How they have loud parties while people are starving/dying/suffering and how they go on wonderful holidays and generally seem to be having a good time. I would have to say that we are all human beings. Doing some of these things is in some cases the only way to cope. One cannot be in constant despair, and in fact, that is exactly one of the reasons we choose to do this work, to get people out of constant despair. We cannot do good work if we are constantly thinking of horror. So what happens? We become desensitised, we drink a lot, we smoke a lot, we may become belligerent, whatever.
With me, I lost my girlfriend after a few months of being here. I had trouble following conversations. I could not sleep unless I had a drink in me. I hated this place for a long time, and maybe I still do. But things are better with me now. In part I have gotten used to it (desensitised it enough), and in part I have changed my surroundings.
I do, however, think that seeing a therapist after I leave here will probably do me a world of good.
JustALilWhale13 karma2013-05-27 15:20:07 UTC
I understand the whole avoiding despair, but as someone that has had many friends in deployed locations, there's more you can do just coping with one another than drink, smoke, and party. I am afraid to visit most other countries because of the bad reputation people have given of english-speaking people. Do we need to send out a humanitarian effort for the humanitarian effort now?
Throwawayhaiti15 karma2013-05-27 15:30:11 UTC
That's a funny thought. I agree there are other ways to cope. Drink, smoke and party are usually cheaper, easier, and less time-consuming.
rcarson7458713 karma2013-05-27 14:49:17 UTC
You are much braver than I to be in Haiti that long. I lived in the Dominican Republic when the earthquake happened, and the NGO I worked for built a water filter factory in Jacmel that is still producing filters. I had the opportunity to go there for one week when it was first built and it was an intense experience. I could not imagine being there for as long as you have. Major kudos to you.
On to the question. If you could change one thing in Haiti (politically, culturally, etc) to aid in its advancement, what would it be?
Throwawayhaiti16 karma2013-05-27 15:01:16 UTC
I love Jacmel! Beautiful place. Congratulations on your work down there, and on your work in the DR.
If I could change one thing in Haiti it would be the attitude of the beneficiaries. Over the past two years there has been a great and partly justified anti-NGO sentiment. They are suspicious of works being done and believe that we are just a business (which I believe we are in part). This obviously cuases massive problems with the work we are trying to achieve. Ironically this anti-NGO movement demands that we do more work and take over some of the activities that are the legal responsibilites of the state. So basically, they don't trust us, but they want us to do more.
-Nick-13 karma2013-05-27 14:02:32 UTC
What's your perspective on the long-term aid work going on there? Lots of teams went down short-term, but it's interesting that you stayed. How, if at all, has your perspective pertaining to Haiti's needs changed?
Throwawayhaiti30 karma2013-05-27 14:24:41 UTC
This is going to require a long answer:
There were tons of organisations coming in in 2010. At one point the Ministry of Interior was saying that about 4000 different organisations (NGOs, church groups, international businesses, etc.) were working in the country. The immediate response was therefore very hectic. There was very little organisation. The UN held (and still holds) what they called "cluster meetings". These thematic meetings tried to coordinate the various activities of all the different actors (so there'd be an education cluster, a shelter cluster, a WASH cluster, etc). Unfortunately many of the smaller NGOs would not participate, making true coordination efforts impossible. You would have large NGOs such as Samaritan's Purse or Save the Children trying to build schools with the coordination and "assistance" of the Ministry of Education, but then some church group from Kansas would come in and would build a school in the areas where the large organisations were meaning to work, thus ruining projects that would probably have had a larger impact and would be managed better.
Tons of money was thrown away in this way. There was also lots of corruption and profiteering. Port-au-Prince, for example, became one of the most expensive cities in the world. Materials for construction, medication, essentially anything that was needed to carry out projects was so expensive that the money allocated for certain activities was barely enough to achieve what had initially been planned out. The opposite thing would also happen, some organisations were unlucky enough to receive far more money than they could spend, and so tried to get rid of it in any way they could, consciously making bad investments, making little effort to protect their warehouses and doing anything when things were stolen, thus forcing them to spend more money buying the material that was stolen. That sort of thing.
There are all sorts of beautiful, wonderful strategies for development in Haiti. They have been drafted using money from all sorts of organisations and countries and they make for nice meeting platforms. They are essentially useless, though. Very little effort has been taken to make coordinated moves towards developments. Most of the action from government, NGOs, UN, and the other different actors has been uncoordinated and disorderly. You can think of it as a school children. They will all acts as "friends" make wonderful plans to work together, publish amazing reports with distorted figures about the achievements that have been done, while at the same time stabbing each other's backs and wanting to take as much credit as possible for the small positive outcomes. Thus the government claims that the building of 200 new schools in 6 months was their achievement, the UN will say that these same 200 schools could not have been built without the aid of the MINUSTAH (Mission des Nations Unis pour la Stabilisation d'Haiti - peacekeepers), the European Union will say that they put in the money and have therefore contributed to Haiti's education, and meanwhile there are no desks or chairs at the school or, as I've seen it, the owners of the land where the school has been built have decided to make some changes to the building and turn it into a private residence.
The chaos was evident since I arrived, but I had hope that it would get better. It seemed for a while that true coordination efforts were under way to actually come up with a central plan to develop Haiti. In fact, I believe the government had even created an organisation to do this. With time, though, especially around election time in 2010 (November, December and then again in beginning of 2011), we all lost focus. The chaos became the status quo, it was accepted, this is Haiti, there was really nothing that could be done about it. Apathy in one person or in a group of people happens all the time and is easily overcome, but apathy in a government and all its supporting branches and external structures is really a depressing thing that is almost impossible to overcome.
I am not sure if that answered your question, but there you have it.
Tolham6 karma2013-05-27 14:43:59 UTC
so, would you say that the Haitians would actually be better off if they were left to their own devices?
Throwawayhaiti18 karma2013-05-27 14:51:39 UTC
That is an extreme viewpoint.
I do not believe that Haitians would be better off alone. Besides some interventions and invasions, Haitians have been alone since their independence. It is a country with an extensive history of abuse of power, factionalism and stupendous brinkmanship. I believe that the earthquake of 2010 was a fantastic opportunity for Haiti to take advantage of the aid, the global support and sympathy it had, and to move forward. Part of my disappointment with this issue comes from how quickly all of this was forgotten here. I believe that if Haiti is to develop, it should come from within Haiti, yes, but this will not be possible without the financial aid of the international community. The mechanism through which the aid is sent to Haiti should be changed, though. Maybe this is a bit of a hazy answer....
aquidaban5 karma2013-05-27 15:40:44 UTC
The "Haitian people" would not be left to their own devices anyway, someone like Papa Doc would probably grab power. Anarchy is unstable. (Right?)
Throwawayhaiti9 karma2013-05-27 15:43:10 UTC
But that's what I mean as being left to their own devices. Maybe I don't understand your comment. Someone like papa doc or aristide or baby doc is exactly what has happened when they have been left to their own devices.
-Nick-4 karma2013-05-27 14:52:18 UTC
Thanks! Your answer is really fascinating and it brings to mind one or two follow up questions:
1 What lessons have you learned about organizing short-term, first on the scene response team strategies & execution?
2 Long-term development strategies seem to be lacking vision, yet have some resources to accomplish something. What do you see as the future for Haiti? Will they rebuild back to its previously decrepit, poverty - stricken standard, or will they rebuild into something greater?
Throwawayhaiti4 karma2013-05-27 15:13:24 UTC
I am not entirely sure if it is actually possible to do coordinated first responses. The nature of the emergency itself means that there will be little organisation and a lot of disorder, however I do believe that smaller organisations (even a group of missionaries coming in for a week) should do their homework and ask themselves if the activities they plan to do are in harmony with what is already being done. They should ask themselves if there is anyone else working in the area, if their practices will create inequality or dependency, etc. The Sphere Standards are a good start.
The poverty-stricken standard is what is currently in place at the moment. I believe that this is the accepted status quo. It is not accepted by those outside of Port-au-Prince, of course, but it is accepted by the political elite, the business owners, even, I dare say, some NGOs who wouldn't exist if it wasn't for this standard.
Barkas1 karma2013-05-27 16:59:18 UTC
Hey I am Tourism student, studying in UK. Next year I will be required to take a placement in industry as part of degree, I was looking into internship work in Africa's Nature Reserves.
But after checking your AMA, I'm interested about possibilities in Haiti. After some googling i found most of the issues with it, but wanted to hear your opinion on tourism in Haiti, its expansion. Also do you think there are any opportunities for internship?
Throwawayhaiti2 karma2013-05-27 18:24:36 UTC
You could try and contact some of the hotels directly to see if they'd be willing to take you on. My main problem with tourism in Haiti is that Haiti does not sound, in my opinion, like an ideal Caribbean holiday. I find it difficult to think of a tourist who would want to come here for a month or two in the summer. Also, I believe the Dominican Republic is the biggest tourist destination in the Caribbean. It will be difficult to compete with such a large business. In spite of this, there ARE tourists who come here, and the Ministry of Tourism is doing a hell of a lot to try and help. I have not studied tourism so my views are completely superficial, but who knows, maybe there is a future in tourism here. You might also want to try contacting the Ministry of Tourism directly, it wouldn't hurt, at the very least they could forward you on to someone who could help you. Good luck!
veintisiete11 karma2013-05-27 14:53:09 UTC
I went to Haiti in 2011 on a Mission Trip and then spent 7 months living in the Dominican. Do you ever get to visit the other side of the island. It is crazy to think how different these two countries are, to be on the same island. Granted the people in the Dominican dont have a lot of money, but the agriculture and mind set are 100% different.
Throwawayhaiti11 karma2013-05-27 15:07:40 UTC
I have been to the Dominican Republic several times. It really is amazing the difference between the two countries. A Dominican friend of mine explained the difference as follows:
These are the views of my Dominican friend:
Haitians have the mentality of ex-slaves, of people who were colonised and treated badly by the colonising power, France. This does not exist in Dominican Republic. Dominicans were never colonised, they were the Spaniards who came in to colonise and then they decided to stay. Yes, there has been some mixing with African slaves, but there has never been a feeling that Spain did something unjust towards them. This difference is massive in the way a national world-view is created. Instead of complaining and seeking the colonial power to make up for the horrors it did, Dominicans have built and created their own country out of the good things that they started when they were Spaniards.
I have always found it interesting.
Knows_Things9 karma2013-05-27 16:41:31 UTC
Your friend is right about Dominicans not being resentful towards anybody,especially not the Spaniards. but keep in mind that after Haiti won independence they had to pay massive amounts of debt to the french which that took them 200+ years to pay off.
Throwawayhaiti3 karma2013-05-27 16:45:00 UTC
Excellent point. I will ask him what his opinion is on this.
crisscar3 karma2013-05-27 20:27:59 UTC
Okay, you're friend is full of shit. Not to blame your friend directly but the Trujillo administration did a bang up job of rewriting Dominican history. To the point that most Dominicans don't believe they have African blood in them despite evidence to the contrary. Spain hasn't been a major factor in Dominican relations since the Spanish American war. No, the US filled that role quite nicely.
Haiti has been independent almost as long as the US has. Unlike the US they never had normalized trade with any western nation. They've been an embargoed state since their inception; no one wanted to encourage other slave islands to revolt so the US, UK, and France had effectively agreed to starve them out.
What has happened is a long history of corruption that drive out the middle, educated class. And attempting the stop the scourge of communism the US armed and equipped some pretty nasty individuals.
The Haitians don't have the mentality o ex slaves. They are well versed on their own history. What they do need is support and the best people to provide it, other Haitians, aren't on the island. The well, educated middle class has left long ago which leaves the island dependent on NGOs and contractors to build and maintain the infrastructure. This is expensive and temporary. The long term solution is for the diaspora to come back but the earthquake put a damper on that.
Throwawayhaiti3 karma2013-05-27 21:05:43 UTC
Well, besides what you say about the rewriting of history by Trujillo, you must know that Dominico-Haitian relations have never been at their best. I wouldn't be surprised if his simplistic explanation isn't also a product of that.
mistercake9 karma2013-05-27 13:57:27 UTC
Why did you choose to go to Haiti? How long do you plan on staying?
Throwawayhaiti18 karma2013-05-27 14:05:09 UTC
I chose to go to Haiti because I needed work. I got an interview through a friend of mine for an NGO and was sent over very shortly after the earthquake of 2010 (in January). I did it because at the time it was the highest paying job I could find, and because it was vaguely related to what I wanted to do career-wise. I never intended to stay as long as I have. One month turned into three more, which turned into six, and next thing I know I've been here for years. For a while I tried convincing myself that I came to help people and to respond to the disaster, and I suppose that made my job easier, but with time I realised that it is really a dirty and disgusting business (yes, a business). I plan to leave in December of this year.
MaliciousLeviathan3 karma2013-05-27 16:02:52 UTC
Do you know the best way to become involved in NGOs? I have wanted to volunteer for a very long time now but since it seems that whenever I try to ask about volunteering or working I am given the same response, no.
Throwawayhaiti3 karma2013-05-27 16:10:15 UTC
Try contacting NGOs in usually uninteresting countries at first. I made the suggestion to someone else of Samaritan's Purse in Bolivia (again, I don't work for samaritan's purse and don't know if they actually work in Bolivia). If you write directly to the country director (whose name you could probably find by googling it) you will have higher chances of getting a positive response.
ilikeanimegirls8 karma2013-05-27 14:58:44 UTC
Hello friend, I am taking care of a haitian refugee in my home, she lost her left leg and some eyesight when her school collapsed on top of her. My wife and I have known the refugees since they came to Tampa shortly after the quake. Mostly trauma patients. Our flower girl, Fritzkar ,now age 5, lost her arm and her mom while she held her. Some of the stories are heartbreaking but I have learned that Haitians are resilient and astute. Rutha who is 17 was a junior bridesmaid at our wedding. My wife is also an amputee so the emotional tie was somewhat there. Last night my wife made griot with pikli and it was pretty good. Rutha's mom is here in Tampa but not staying with us. Her dad and sisters and one brother are still back in Haiti. We hear about how scarce things are and the crime. I don't know if it's true but I hope not as bad as it sounds. Thank you for loving Haiti.
P.S. how's your Creole?
Throwawayhaiti8 karma2013-05-27 15:04:47 UTC
It is wonderful that you have helped the way you have. I understand that many of these displaced persons have had an extremely hard time in the countries that have taken them in, and it is inspiring that people do their best to console and to help those affected by the earthquake.
My Creole is embarrassing. I focused far more on French than Creole because I never expected to stay here very long. Nonetheless, I am able to hold a conversation.
P.S. I am far more partial to cabrit than griot!
Mr_Monster8 karma2013-05-27 16:18:22 UTC
Why should anyone care about Haiti anymore? We provided money and support since the quake, and after the major coup d'etat, and after their last national disaster. Why shouldn't I just say, "13 strikes and you're out?"
Throwawayhaiti12 karma2013-05-27 16:19:39 UTC
I'm not here to change your opinion. I think those are excellent questions and they have crossed my mind more than once as well.
Thompson_S_Sweetback8 karma2013-05-27 15:10:52 UTC
What's the best way to donate to Haiti relief? I hear that so little of the donated money actually reaches the island, it sounds like it would be more effective to just put cash in an envelope and mail it to a random name in the Haiti white pages.
Throwawayhaiti29 karma2013-05-27 15:37:36 UTC
Let me tell you first what the worst way to donate is: donations in kind. Sending clothes, water, food, whatever. That is amazingly annoying and mostly unnecessary. Most of the donations in kind will sit at warehouses for weeks and months and will cost much more to store and transport than if it was bought separately.
The easiest way to donate to Haiti would be to give money to a reputable, maybe non-religious organisation. It is true that a lot of the money does not reach the projects themselves, but that is unavoidable. You have to see your money not as equalling a brick in a school, but as something that helps that brick being put there. NGO offices, the cost of guards, even having coffee for a meeting, these all come from donations (mostly) and are in some way necessary to making it possible to put a brick in a school. Still, I understand your frustration with this.
platypocalypse3 karma2013-05-27 17:07:28 UTC
What do you think of this Earthship project?
Throwawayhaiti3 karma2013-05-27 18:12:53 UTC
I'd never heard of it before. I'll take a look at the video later. Thanks for the link!
LeEpicGem8 karma2013-05-27 14:04:04 UTC
Throwawayhaiti12 karma2013-05-27 14:28:11 UTC
This is a great question. It's funny, I don't actually know what is probably a generally accepted definition of this. Maybe I should explain to you what I have done?
In 2010 I came in as part of an emergency team, trying to deal with fast response to the earthquake emergency. This meant the immediate alleviation of the needs of those affected. Thus, distribution of food and water, clothes, medication, emergency medical services, tents and tarpaulin for shelter, etc.
Since then I have moved to development. This means that the emergency is over and now we are focusing on long-term goals. So we have built schools, fixed roads, built hospitals, trained nurses, etc.
VegetableSamosa6 karma2013-05-27 16:34:55 UTC
I study International Development at Uni and this is pretty much what I want to spend my life doing. How'd you get into it?
Throwawayhaiti2 karma2013-05-27 16:50:00 UTC
I'm sorry for this short answer, if you look around there are a couple of other people who asked the same question. My answers are there.
rfc17951 karma2013-05-27 16:57:14 UTC
Not sure this has been asked yet, but thought this spot might be a good place.
Do you actually get paid or some form of income? How do you survive if you have expenses to be paid back home? Reason I ask is I'd love to do something like this .. but no ways I could ever afford to even if it were for a month.
Throwawayhaiti2 karma2013-05-27 18:26:56 UTC
I do get paid. The pay is better than what I would get back home and it has been a greatly influential reason in my staying here for so long.
bageltogo7 karma2013-05-27 15:28:54 UTC
Sean Penn...the real deal? (Semi-related: did you see the Anthony Bourdain rice and beans bit from his trip to Haiti with "No Reservations" where a riot breaks out when he tries to buy it for everyone? Arguably the most apt metaphor for well-intentioned but ultimately destructive aid work I've ever seen captured on film.)
Throwawayhaiti9 karma2013-05-27 15:46:46 UTC
He's a bit of a joke. Yeah, he had that camp at the Petionville country club. But then half of his IDPs were sent off to Corail. His organisation does not have much street cred or respect among others here. He's great with news and sensationalism, though. So there's that.
Anthony Bourdain - I saw about half of his show. I think that bit where the scuffle broke out over food is an excellent example of what happens when projects aren't thought-out all the way through. There was a lot of that in 2010.
drtzz7 karma2013-05-27 15:07:55 UTC
Can any real change be taken in Haiti while the government is corrupt? A government needs to provide for it's people, and clearly the Haitian government does not do that.
Throwawayhaiti8 karma2013-05-27 15:42:07 UTC
I do not believe positive significant change can take place with a corrupt government.
baconatorpancakes6 karma2013-05-27 15:07:21 UTC
Hi. Thanks for doing this AMA. A few questions:
Throwawayhaiti10 karma2013-05-27 15:25:28 UTC
Could you elaborate a bit more about the waste of money happening in Haiti?
-Projects that are obviously destined to fail (e.g. Corail IDP camp)
-Corruption in government, corruption at moment of importing vehicles or material
-The cost of aid workers. Most of them are expatriates, most of them require high salaries to make living here worth it for them
What do you think happened with the bulk of aid money that was committed to Haiti in 2010 immediately following the earthquake?
-This is hard to say. Most of the answers above cover this quite well with the addition that in 2010 most of the activities were for emergency response, therefore short-term goals (distribution water or food) and therefore have not left a tangible mark that can be seen today.
-YES. Haiti is simply not sexy anymore. ECHO, USAID, CIDA, etc. they're all tired of giving money for projects in Haiti when the results are minimal or not tangible enough, and where corruption is so high. I believe CIDA even said earlier this year that they would stop helping Haiti until the Haitian government gets its house in order.
Why do you think it is so hard for Haiti to recover from the earthquake?
- The earthquake destroyed Port-au-Prince, the largest city and commercial base of the country. It's as if New York City were suddenly obliterated. Recovery from something like that would be slow and painful. If on top of that you take into account lack of coordination, corruption, and personal interests then you will end up with something like Haiti today.
How do you feel about the current government in Haiti?
Throwawayhaiti1 karma2013-05-27 15:25:21 UTC
JugulatorX5 karma2013-05-27 15:10:25 UTC
Say I wanted to leave for this type of work immediately. How does one jump right in? I've been wanting to do some kind of work like this temporarily, and eventually permanently. Are you actually a volunteer and have to pay for all travel, food, and living expenses or are you a paid contractor of some type?
Throwawayhaiti5 karma2013-05-27 15:39:18 UTC
Strangely, it is harder than one would expect. I got lucky.
Organisations are usually looking for educated individuals, and usually people educated in either the field of humanitarian affairs or whatever specific field they will be working in (e.g. WASH - Water, Sanitation and Hygiene experts).
Some organisations might look for volunteers but they are also very competitive. Take a look at reliefweb.com . Job descriptions there might give you an idea of what it is they're looking for.
Linxiekins5 karma2013-05-27 16:38:54 UTC
A close friend of mine was working for some private security firm over there. She said there was a big problem with the Haitians raping women over there. Apparently she wasn't allowed to go out after dark for fear of people raping her. At some point a group of people got fed up with all the women being raped, rounded up a group of like, 12 people who had tried to rape their female counter-parts, and murdered them all on the roof of a building. Is rape a serious problem over there?
Throwawayhaiti8 karma2013-05-27 16:46:27 UTC
Rape is a massive problem. I remember reading that rape did not actually become illegal until the beginning of this century, though I'm not sure if that's true. I receive a daily digest of security issues in Port-au-Prince from the UN and I'd say about 80% of these are related to rapes. Also, vigilantism is massive. Lots of lynchings.
mybfhatesreddit5 karma2013-05-27 15:52:02 UTC
I was just in Port au Prince! I got back on Tuesday from a ten day trip there. My father works in a high position for Digicel down there, I'd rather not say what exactly. I met some girls at Wahoo Bay that were working for Hope for Haiti, so this post piqued my curiosity.
My question to you is when I was down there, the amount of trash on the mountain sides, in the street, etc. was astonishing to me. Coming from the states, it was shocking to me that there was no regard for cleanup as we have here. Why do you think that is? Do you think that the Haitians don't care, or is there more to it?
Throwawayhaiti5 karma2013-05-27 16:07:22 UTC
I think in part it's just the way it is. They're used to it. I'm used to it too at this point. Secondly, there are very few pick-up spots for refuse. Thirdly, many people choose to throw it in the canals because it is easier than burning it themselves.
Every once in a while there will be efforts to clean up, but because of how Port-au-Prince is built, rain tends to wash a lot of it up on the streets.
The_Chrononaut5 karma2013-05-27 15:13:01 UTC
If you had to do anything else what would it be?
Throwawayhaiti5 karma2013-05-27 15:14:42 UTC
I don't quite understand the question. In what context?
Do you mean what would/will I do after I leave?
I have no idea. I'm in a bit of an existential crisis at the moment.
The_Chrononaut3 karma2013-05-27 15:21:36 UTC
If you had to do anything besides humanitarian work, what would it be?
Throwawayhaiti7 karma2013-05-27 15:29:05 UTC
Become a carpenter!
chulk905 karma2013-05-27 16:22:59 UTC
Serious question: What do you think are the reason(s) that Haiti is still in a mess, compared to other countries or societies which had comparable or greater earthquakes?
I'm working on a related economics research, and would like to hear an at-the-field, outside-of-discipline opinion.
Throwawayhaiti7 karma2013-05-27 16:40:24 UTC
Predominantly the political culture. It is based on factionalism, corruption and strong-arming. A crude simile would be the mafia. Strong structures with dubious populist bases who are able to control through fear, pressure, and the sheer weight of money being thrown around.
BigAndy20125 karma2013-05-27 16:14:31 UTC
How do you feel choosing this path, and how have the people there taught you as a person?
Throwawayhaiti9 karma2013-05-27 16:27:53 UTC
I feel emotionally and physically exhausted.
From the people here I have learnt what true human resilience is. I have also learnt what despair and distrust truly is. I have been incredibly angry at the people here, I have hated all of it, but I have also realised that classifying a people as one entity, giving them one label and one name, is an exercise in futility. You will find all sorts of kind people and all sorts of spiteful people, and though it sounds very trite, you might as well focus on the good ones because the others will have you wallowing in despair.
farmerfoo4 karma2013-05-27 16:37:25 UTC
If you had to do it over, would you have gone and done this? Whats the biggest problem with Haiti / the people ? That country seems to not be able to lift itself out of poverty vs dominican republic
Throwawayhaiti5 karma2013-05-27 16:49:23 UTC
If I had to do it over again I don't think I would have stayed longer than a year.
In a nutshell the Dominican Republic has the advantage that it speaks Spanish and can therefore form active part of its surrounding community, it has made an active effort to improve its political culture since its dictatorship, and it was able to take advantage of the tourist industry starting from the 1970s. Haiti at one point was a bigger tourism destination than the Dominican Republic (in the 70s I believe). Since then political problems have, in my opinion, managed to detract from this sort of development.
MiningPotatoes4 karma2013-05-27 15:49:11 UTC
How many places have you been to help out in Haiti?
Throwawayhaiti4 karma2013-05-27 15:55:25 UTC
I worked predominantly in Port-au-Prince but have been working throughout the country except for the Sud and Grand-Anse departments.
Throwawayhaiti3 karma2013-05-27 15:56:04 UTC
Also, I've never been to la Gonave.
I say "worked" because I'm currently stationed in another town.
Miltefar4 karma2013-05-27 15:12:08 UTC
Hi, thanks for the AMA and your work in Haïti.
What is your opinion on the work of many major NGOs like the Red Cross that struggled to bring an emergency response to this major event?
The public opinion has been very critical on how slowly the recovery process is happening, when NGOs defended themselves saying that even though the funds given were huge, the "healing" process of that country would take more than just a few years. It created quite a desillusion from the public that led to disappointment, I think.
Being on the field since that time, what is your view on that?
Throwawayhaiti7 karma2013-05-27 15:34:28 UTC
I believe organisations like the Red Cross have done their best. They provided excellent response given the difficulties in the field. I also agree that this "healing" process will take time, though I agree with the crowds and will say that that is a very trite response.
I believe the desillusion from the public comes from the expectation of immediate change. That is an unrealistic viewpoint. It was always going to be slow and painful.
missdiggles4 karma2013-05-27 16:42:19 UTC
Given your experience, do you feel that the money / energy your NGOs have spent out there has made a difference?
Throwawayhaiti7 karma2013-05-27 16:44:16 UTC
I believe that some achievements have been made, yes. Schools have been built, cholera has been responded to in an amazing way, local associations have been set up and are able to effectively manage and represent their communities. I believe that achievements have been made but nothing near what was expected, and this isn't from lack of trying. I think that expectations were far too high and unrealistic.
Sol__Rep4 karma2013-05-27 16:10:18 UTC
How much is the pay? and are many of the prisoners that escaped still out?
Throwawayhaiti5 karma2013-05-27 16:16:13 UTC
For project management positions it is anywhere between EUR 1000.00 and EUR 6000.00 a month depending on the organisation. In the first organisation I worked with my boss, the country director was making around USD 120,000.00 a year. It really depends on the size of the organisation.
Shamhowe4 karma2013-05-27 16:08:57 UTC
How has the Earthquake affected you specifically? My grandpa, two cousins, and my Aunt were some of the very few Canadians in Haiti when the earthquake hit. My grandfather still has nightmares, and when my grandmother rolls over or moves in bed, he wakes up thinking it's another earthquake. My cousin also had a baby girl die in his arms while he was there, none of them have been the same since.
Throwawayhaiti5 karma2013-05-27 16:18:55 UTC
I remember the tremors that followed the earthquake. I remember hearing buildings falling in the middle of the night. So many buildings were left in precarious positions and if you happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time they could topple on you. I remember the smell of dead people. Strangely it is something that I have mostly blocked out. I remember what it was like, but it's as if I'm distant from it.
tigga213 karma2013-05-27 15:49:48 UTC
Where you involved in any other humanitarian efforts throughout the world?
Throwawayhaiti3 karma2013-05-27 15:52:36 UTC
Yes, mostly in Central America. Because this information might make me easily identifiable to colleagues in other oganisations, I'd rather not say where.
Throwawayhaiti2 karma2013-05-27 16:07:37 UTC
Yes, mostly in Central America.
BigAndy20123 karma2013-05-27 16:17:39 UTC
Also, how dangerous is life there pertaining to crime and violence?
Throwawayhaiti6 karma2013-05-27 16:23:26 UTC
It can be quite dangerous. Most of the time I'd say that unless one is completely lacking in common sense, one should be absolutely fine. But then I realise I've gotten used to not walking around in Port-au-Prince, gotten used to having armed guards at the door of my house, knowing exit routes BY HEART. Some friends of mine have been robbed, one them was almost kidnapped (his colleagues were kidnapped, he was out of the house at the time). There was a Swiss woman who was killed for HTG2,000.00 in Cap Haitien I believe. It can be dangerous.
HUMOROUSGOAT3 karma2013-05-27 15:19:57 UTC
What do you think of people who do relief work that are actually being a front for a Christian Group
Throwawayhaiti11 karma2013-05-27 15:31:26 UTC
I am saddened by them. Distributing bibles in earthquake devastated areas is tantamount to twiddling your thumbs in my opinion. But then i'm an atheist so of course I'd have this sort of opinion.
rocksteadycrew3 karma2013-05-27 15:24:59 UTC
Do you think that some of the work that is being done allows the Haitian government to get away with irresponsible spending?
Throwawayhaiti6 karma2013-05-27 15:26:58 UTC
Definitely. A common strategy is to request salarial aid for extra work such-and-such functionary will need to do in order to move this proposal/project/importation/whatever along.
That is small, though.
The big ones are when donors give money directly to the government for projects.
rocksteadycrew2 karma2013-05-27 16:20:29 UTC
I don't know if you can answer this but I am going to ask anyways. Any projects/donations in particular?
Throwawayhaiti3 karma2013-05-27 16:41:42 UTC
Construction projects are wonderful for this. Lots of money, lots of questionable expenses. If you're talking about a large infrastructure project, then even better. You will need government approvals, licenses, maybe even businesses that are owned by functionaries.
walrus03 karma2013-05-27 15:35:57 UTC
What ISP does your organization use for Internet access in Haiti?
Throwawayhaiti1 karma2013-05-27 15:43:58 UTC
Explain to me why you want this information, and I will give it to you.
walrus03 karma2013-05-27 15:46:22 UTC
I'm curious about the current state of the Haitian ISP scene, because I do contract/consulting work for a wireless ISP that operates in developing nation environments very similar to Haiti... If you have some special arrangement with an ISP or are logically downstream of a larger NGO that's buying capacity in bulk, I understand if you don't want to specify a name.
Really I'm more curious about what specific technology your last mile access is using (from the ISP to your NGO's premises), speeds to the outside world, prices, and whether in your opinion it's reasonably reliable or not.
Throwawayhaiti3 karma2013-05-27 16:00:43 UTC
Half the things you have said I am not familiar with, sorry. Do you work for Nethope?
I believe my organisation uses NATCOM, a vietnamese-owned company. It's fairly reliable, but slow. Also from what the people in Administration tell me, their customer service is shameful..... hope that helps?
walrus02 karma2013-05-27 16:05:06 UTC
Not nethope, but a company that does work similar to what they do, supporting several USAID contractors on the other side of the world from Haiti (Afghanistan, Pakistan).
When I say "last mile" access I mean whatever method connects your site(s) to the ISP. Since Haiti has non-existant copper phone lines in many areas, probably not any sort of cable (such as DSL over copper phone lines). Most likely some sort of wireless gear on your roof aimed at a local radio tower. If you have a chance to snap one photo of just the antenna unit it would satisfy my curiosity. "fairly reliable but slow" is a good description, although Haiti does have connections to submarine fiber cables there are several constraints on Internet traffic in and out of the island which people in the US/Canada aren't accustomed to.
Throwawayhaiti2 karma2013-05-27 16:14:07 UTC
It is a fairly tall tower on top of our office pointing somewhere towards the South West. Do you still want a picture of it?
Mattnik3 karma2013-05-27 15:26:13 UTC
Any tips for a development undergrad?
EDIT, I realise that's a rather vague. Tips for securing interns and first position in the field of dev. would be most welcome.
Thanks for doing this AMA, it's great to hear a first-hand account.
Throwawayhaiti6 karma2013-05-27 15:51:10 UTC
Be sure to focus on something other than development. If you want to do microcredits, do some economics, try to get an internship with a local microcredit organisation (you can even find them in large US cities!), if you want to do WASH then do an internship as a plumber's assistant (seriously!). Development alone won't get you very far.
Also, try for internships in places that are rather boring. For example, look up the Samaritan's Purse office in Bolivia (that's just an example, I have no connection to Samaritan's Purse, I don't even know if they work there) and simply write and say that you'd be interested in doing an internship. You'll be more likely to get one that way than by going through the usual competitive routes.
big_bizzness3 karma2013-05-27 15:48:59 UTC
As a fellow humanitarian, it brings me great hope to see someone as articulate, understanding, and most importantly, willing to share your stories and experiences with others as yourself. I (very recently) got my masters in International Sustainable Development, and intend to go overseas ASAP. I just got back from a stint in Liberia, and very much relate to your comments about fatigue and depression, thank you for sharing that. Here's some questions!
How did you come to the realization that you wanted to do development work?
How did you find this position/opportunity to work?
Do you know specifically of any reputable NGO's looking for employees or volunteers?
Throwawayhaiti3 karma2013-05-27 15:58:37 UTC
I studied something vaguely related to this sort of work, and was lucky enough to be able to get an interview in January of 2010. You might say I fell into it.
I'm not too sure about volunteers, but if you are interested in coming to Haiti you could take a look at either reliefweb or devex. That should give you a quick overview.
Pharakan_Space3 karma2013-05-27 16:26:59 UTC
So is Wyclef a big deal over there?
Throwawayhaiti3 karma2013-05-27 16:29:18 UTC
When he was running for president (or trying to) in 2010 he was. I haven't really heard anything about him since. There would be grafitti saying Jen Kore Jen. Which translates to "The people support Jean" but it could also mean "Jean supports the people"
KrazyRooster3 karma2013-05-27 16:17:49 UTC
You mentioned that you first decided to go there because it was the bes pay you had find. How much do they usually pay to someone who is just starting? Since we do not know you, I thought you would be ok with sharing. I have thought about doing such work, and even though I don't expect it to make me rich, I also don't want to be extremelly poor by doing it. I think it would be good to help others but I don't want to go completely broke while doing it.
Thanks for all the honest replies so far!
Throwawayhaiti6 karma2013-05-27 16:20:51 UTC
For the position I had, I believe I was making around USD4,500.00 a month. This included housing and transportation and R&R every two months.
KrazyRooster4 karma2013-05-27 16:24:15 UTC
That is MUCH more than I expected. I thought they would pay something around USD1200 a month. Not a bad job at all!!
Any advice you could give us to get into the field? I saw that you mentioned applying for some countries that are people's first choice, but how about what to put in your application, what kind of people do they look for, and so on? If you have some free time and can tell us that, I am sure other would also be interested.
Thank you for replying!
Throwawayhaiti6 karma2013-05-27 16:38:55 UTC
Ah, but it's a sacrifice. You could get killed, you will not see your family often, you will be afraid, you will be ill. You should ask yourself if it is really worth it. Organisations your usually looking for people who have worked in this field before. If you have been a volunteer, that is good. If you have a technical expertise such as being a plumber or a carpenter, that is good too. Then there are all the support positions, if you are a financial manager that's excellent, or if you have worked as a logistician sometime before. My advice about volunteering with organisations in smaller missions is more for those who are just leaving university.
mint-green3 karma2013-05-27 15:09:50 UTC
What would you say to someone to convince him/her to become a humanitarian worker in Haiti like you?
Throwawayhaiti9 karma2013-05-27 15:41:35 UTC
I'm not sure I would try to convince anyone to do this. It is hard, it is uncomfortable, and it will eventually break you. I believe it was more difficult for me because it wasn't an actual calling. I did it for convenience, and though at the beginning I did believe that I was doing good work and that I wanted to help, this faded. It is sad. Had I had other opitons, I think I would have left much earlier. This makes me incredibly sad about myself, but it is true. If you want to do aid work, you should know it and be sure of it without asking other's opinions, I think. Think of it like joining a seminary.
konbit2 karma2013-05-27 19:50:54 UTC
I don't know if this will get seen, but will give it a shot. My parents are Canadian, but I grew up in Haiti. They moved there to help out in the 80s but not as part of any NGO or company, just on their own. When my mom first moved there she lived in a tiny little room rented from a house with no furniture and barely enough to live on. My parents were very determined that I grow up as a Haitian culturally, I went to Haitian schools (most ex-pats would go to Americanized schools) I spent time in my neighbourhood with the kids there, not going to special ex-pat hangout spots or summer camps. I am culturally a Haitian and associate with Haiti more than any other culture. My mother has worked since with many aid organizations and now runs her own small scale, grass-roots, Haitian NGO focused on teacher training. I've seen everything there is to see with NGO's and their workers. From this perspective I've felt it's a shame that aid workers and ex-pats don't get enough exposure to Haitians. They see the worst because they interact with people who are in dire situations or deal with corrupt officials. Whereas there is so much joy and beauty there, and growing up there I don't have any familiarity with most of the situations OP has talked about (not that he's been bad mouthing Haiti or that these things don't exist, just that there's a dark side in any country, I'm sure aid/social workers in the US/Canada might have many similar stories, though probably not as publicly visible as in Haiti). So a question to OP is, do you think it would be beneficial to be more exposed to Haitian community life? Would it help with the depression and shock that many of you feel?
TL;DR; Grew up in Haiti as Haitian, parents involved in NGOs. I feel it would benefit NGO workers to be more involved in Haitian life, than just helping in the emergencies.
Throwawayhaiti2 karma2013-05-27 19:54:54 UTC
Yes. I think that more exposure would help with depression and so on. I'm not sure if it would have helped much in 2010 when things were so out of control, but it would certainly help now. And let me say, there are many expats who have given themselves to Haiti completely. They have made families here, have become completely entwined with the country. Many of those who left have very fond memories of Haiti.
It was never my intention to bad-mouth the country, and I'm sorry if it might have even seemed that way. I am only one voice and one opinion, and I only mean to share what I have seen and felt.
languagebelow2 karma2013-05-27 16:48:55 UTC
Throwawayhaiti3 karma2013-05-27 16:53:05 UTC
I have never heard of this. Is this real?
Paychex2 karma2013-05-27 16:26:42 UTC
Did you happen to know my uncle, David Driscoll? He was a longtime humanitarian worker, and went to Haiti several times before he died a year ago.
He wanted me to go with him, and I always intended to, but didn't get a chance.
Throwawayhaiti3 karma2013-05-27 16:51:24 UTC
I don't believe I ever met David. His name does sound familiar, though.
monodimensional_man2 karma2013-05-27 16:15:31 UTC
What are the best beaches in Haiti?
Throwawayhaiti3 karma2013-05-27 16:24:23 UTC
The beaches on Ile a Vache!
MCiiPod2 karma2013-05-27 15:49:15 UTC
In the longer term, given that a large amount of donated money was siphoned from the system, is there a foreseeable end to the suffering of Haitians which was a result of the earthquake and associated events afterwards?
Throwawayhaiti3 karma2013-05-27 15:54:26 UTC
As someone else said on here, Haitians are resilient. The earthquake happened, and though there is a lot of suffering from the events following the earthquake, that particular chapter in haitian history is already closed. The government is currently making large investments in the field of tourism, hoping that this will eventually develop enough to be able to economically alleviate the poverty of the country particular in areas of natural beauty. There is no correct answer with this.
MCiiPod2 karma2013-05-27 16:01:55 UTC
It's fantastic to hear that despite everything that happens progress is still being made; I think it's a credit not only to the Haitian people but all the hardworking individuals and teams of workers who have made a massive difference - thanks for doing this AMA too, it's completely different hearing accounts first hand rather than through news broadcasts. Sorry for a followup question too, but in areas that aren't of natural beauty is there a risk of them being abandoned as people move to places that have received the most governmental input and wealth?
Throwawayhaiti2 karma2013-05-27 16:13:02 UTC
Definitely. This is already happening. Populations are moving towards urban centres and around current tourism points. These are usually young people moving. So old persons and children are usually left behind.
Copywright1 karma2013-05-27 16:48:40 UTC
My dad has a school is Petionville called ICDH. Ever come across their rebuilding efforts?
Throwawayhaiti2 karma2013-05-27 16:53:53 UTC
Hmm, maybe. If you tell me where more or less in Petionville. What does ICDH stand for?
wallysaruman1 karma2013-05-27 16:58:57 UTC
What impression do you have from Argentina's army men? I understand that the blue helmets were there, helping.
Throwawayhaiti2 karma2013-05-27 18:25:57 UTC
The MINUSTAH (UN Mission for the Stabilisation of Haiti) are still here. The Argentinian contingent is also still here. To be honest, all peacekeepers look the same unless you get close to them and see their flags. MINUSTAH is the last resort once the police and UNPOL have failed. You see them sometimes at manifestations, but most of the time the Haitian state prefers to try and solve matters with their own policing forces.
Freedstarful1 karma2013-05-27 17:06:35 UTC
What kind of food do you eat? What kind of alcohol/drugs do workers use?
As a tall person and picky eater I don't think I could live in another country.
Throwawayhaiti2 karma2013-05-27 18:14:08 UTC
I eat most Western foods. It's easy to find imported foods in Port-au-Prince though they're quite expensive. You don't have to sacrifice anything if you didn't want to. Haitian food is lovely, though.
Jenneteg1 karma2013-05-27 21:13:19 UTC
What aiding organizations are stil present at Haiti?
Throwawayhaiti2 karma2013-05-27 21:18:54 UTC
Loads. I don't know where I could find that information for you, but lots of them come to mind. Small ones, big ones, two-men-with-5-dollars-between-them. Tons.
I have friends working at:
bah, there's loads.
rocksteadycrew1 karma2013-05-27 17:05:49 UTC
Throwawayhaiti2 karma2013-05-27 18:15:25 UTC
When I first arrived, I was very hopeful. I suppose Haiti has made me quite cynical as time went on. I'm a little sad to say that I have grown tired and don't care so much anymore. This is one of the main reasons why I'm leaving. It is difficult to do good work when you're not dedicated anymore.
AmbidextrousDyslexic1 karma2013-05-27 18:11:20 UTC
What was the most disgusting thing you have seen politics wise so far?
Throwawayhaiti2 karma2013-05-27 18:35:54 UTC
I remember being in an angry fit when I heard that Baby Doc had been allowed entry into the country, and that when he arrived he was received with applause. Same with Aristide. This still disgusts me.
stup0r1 karma2013-05-27 16:48:59 UTC
Have you met the Arcade Fire?
Throwawayhaiti3 karma2013-05-27 16:52:32 UTC
No, but I was in town in 2010 when they had their first concert at the Hotel Oloffson. I was pissed I couldn't go. I think it was raining and I hadn't put in a vehicle request.
MyNameIsntPatrick-1 karma2013-05-27 15:18:20 UTC
I went on a mission trip to Haiti in Summer 2011. There was a hospital damaged by the Earthquake right near port au prince that we volunteered at. Any idea if there has been progress in the rebuild?
Throwawayhaiti3 karma2013-05-27 15:31:53 UTC
Oof, hard to say without the name of the hospital.
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