Destination: Haiti

Tomorrow I’ll be flying down to Port-au-Prince with some folks from JCI to check out the construction of a new community center. It’ll be a quick trip — just four days — but I’ll be writing about it here. A description of the project is at the link. Any questions you have? Particulars you’d like to see covered?

Once completed, the center will provide hope and positive change to the community through exciting and inventive opportunities. These include a community radio for educational and informational programs as well as a daycare to support working parents. The center will also provide many offices and conference rooms for groups within the community to meet, coordinate and plan future projects that will support the development of the country. While the center will offer much needed resources, its presence in the community will bring many opportunities for progress including economic empowerment.


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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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10 Responses to Destination: Haiti

  1. TomSims says:

    No questions Jill. I have no doubt you’ll do a great job reporting on the situation there. I’ll be looking forward to reading what you write.

  2. JBL55 says:

    One thing I’m curious about is how the structures being built in Haiti are designed with Haitians in mind.

    I’m curious because some of the new housing has been designed by folks who don’t live there and are unaware of, for example, the kinds of open kitchens preferred by Haitians, resulting in dysfunctional structures with which those for whose benefit they were built are struggling mightily to use.

    • Well, about designing with Haitians in mind, perhaps it’d be best if Haitians were the designers and builders? We can learn from them, indeed. They’ve been making do and doing without, getting by on a whole lot less, and with less of a “footprint”, living gently on the earth – in the rural zones – we could indeed learn, if we listen. Much more empowering if the people themselves are at the helm, given a vote of confidence from our so-called “First” World – no? My de goudes

  3. Hi Jill, it’s awesome to hear about your trip. I hope it goes well.

    I did give the site you linked to a reasonably close look. I’m kind of wondering, now, if they’re linking benefits to some sort of religious involvement. I’ve seen lots of religious organisations (Hindu and Christian in my case) that did a lot of good work, but proselytised and linked benefits to religious affiliation (after a while, of course, in good ol’ drug-dealer fashion). Some questions along the line of whether literally anyone can use these facilities, and if the community will retain functional control of the centre as a whole, or if the org will retain control over entry/use of conference rooms, daycare etc, might be interesting to see.

    I would also be interested to see what kinds of materials training they’re (planning on?) providing the Haitians, re: the radio, etc. I’ve found often that organisations tend to randomly drop off stuff and then never explain why they’ve given those things, or how to use them. Or they train a handful of people who, when they drift away, take the skills in using the equipment with them.

    • (Note: I am wondering about religiosity because it is in their mission statement, values etc. I find that relatively secular organisations, even when staffed by intensely religious people, tend to leave off Godspeak in official documents.)

  4. a lawyer says:

    Looks interesting. Those things can be really hard to balance well; good luck.

    On the one hand, if you want real inclusiveness then you want all groups to have access to community space; you want all parents to have access to daycare; you want all political persuasions to have access to community radio.

    OTOH, you may find that some groups are simply more valuable and productive than others, or that some groups need more space (and who gets to choose and assign value?) And you may find that it makes more sense to have certain parents with kids in the daycare, like, say, those who work there–but what happens when they no longer work in the community center, and besides, aren’t they already better off than everyone else due to the fact that they have jobs? And to put it mildly you may find that you DON’T really want all political persuasions on the community radio.

    Simultaneously you’ll have a depth/breadth issue to work out. Even if you can manage to target the group you want to serve (hard though that is) you still need to figure out whether you’ll serve a lot of people or fewer people.

    I’ve worked with organizations that do both. (For a great example of “depth,” there are places like Habitat and other “buy-in” housing organizations, where a few selected individuals get what amount to enormous subsidies to own homes. For the equivalent example of “breadth,” you can simply look at a homeless shelter.)

    With limited money you’ll have to make tough choices. It’s even harder when there aren’t as many competing alternatives, so you may not have the moral comfort of assuming “someone else will help that other group there.”

    The best advice I can give you is to set up process and not get too individual. I say that because many well-wishers don’t think of the converse of their actions, and because it’s human nature to focus on the squeaky wheel, even if your grease could better be used elsewhere. A better way of putting it is that people tend very heavily towards depth over breadth even when it doesn’t fit the mission.

    It’s simple to say “oh, we shouldn’t kick Jane’s kid out of daycare just because she doesn’t work here any more!” Who wants to be mean to Jane, right? But the question isn’t “should you be mean to Jane?” The question is (or should be, for most larger groups) “we have one day care slot which may open up. We could give it to Jane’s kid or we could give it to Julie, who ALSO needs a slot. Who should get it, and why? Because

    • karak says:

      I’m honestly a little confused by this comment–Jill said, “I’m doing a thing and what would you like to know?” and your response was, “Well I don’t really think you’ve thought out this thing much at all” and don’t even really have a question.

  5. Tony Daniels says:

    Safe travels! Community Centers can be complicated structures because there is always this issue: Is culture being handed down or is a place being given for culture to happen? (sorry so clumsy, but it’s sort of like what the previous commenter was saying about imposition of religion.) I guess what I’m interested in hearing is whether the community center is going to be a place that people come to and claim as their own, or if it is going to be an organ for the imposition of some outside power. Maybe more to the point, if it is a given that a community center empowers someone, who will be empowered and how?

  6. FYouMudFlaps says:

    Make sure you try some Griot with a side of Pikliz!

  7. Henry says:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/24/world/americas/in-aiding-quake-battered-haiti-lofty-hopes-and-hard-truths.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

    Are things on the reconstruction front as bad as this NYT piece from December 2012 states?

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