It'd been a long week. Several bunk beds later, even more tape measure and tool identification tests later, and even more more time spent explaining the merits of learning a skill and the delayed reward of being an apprentice first and then an accomplished tradesman later. A difficult concept to convey: delayed gratification. Especially when much of the population may go without a meal for a day or two. In the midst of all this I will miss faces and smiles and laughter.
As I said my goodbyes to the guys at the transition house, one boy who I had struggled to get to know and connect with, gave me a hug, looked me in the face and said, "We'll miss you." I smiled and tried to hide how surprised I was. I think this moment, more than anything, fulfilled that selfish little need to feel useful and beneficial. For some of these boys I had pushed them pretty hard, maybe too hard. I had not given a free lunch to anybody. They knew that when it comes to me, if they worked hard I would reward them... otherwise, they needed to get out.
What I've learned is that Haitians are strong people. They are smart, kind, funny, and resilient. The most frustrating thing to me about Haiti is not the people or the somewhat backward mentality of things. No... it's the unfortunate reality that 10s of thousands of purely altruistic and well-intentioned NGOs have given the local Haitian community little room to develop ownership, leadership and personal responsibility. Do they need to be educated? Yes. But in such a ways that their education can lead to financial and material independence from the NGO world. My hope for Haiti is not with Politicians and multi-million dollar budget NGOs... it's with the small handful of boys that taught each other how to read a tape measure and cut a 2x4. I taught one or two and they taught the rest. To a very small degree, I've worked myself out of a job and that truly is the greatest reward for any humanitarian volunteer.
Will we return to Haiti? Yes, for sure. It is a land pregnant with possibility and potential and I believe that in time the DNA of the NGO world will realize that the true goal of a servant is to become less so that those you serve may become more.
Mwen Renmen Ayiti