Haitians Helping Haitians
The population of Haitians and Haitian Americans living in the U.S. is approaching one million.
Many, in the generation born in the U.S. or among those here since childhood, are looking to give back to Haiti. They want to connect back in meaningful ways to a place that lives in the collective imagination of the Haitian diaspora.
Needs are large in Haiti. Basic skills that we take for granted here are scarce and much needed there.
Haitians in the diaspora have much to offer the country of their origins.
After the 2010 earthquake, many Haitian American young people felt the call to serve in Haiti in a time of desperation and need. Some took jobs with non-profit organizations in Haiti. Others donated money.
What can I offer as a volunteer at MCLC?
Volunteering in Haiti is a way to have real impact. At MCLC we have a steady stream of Haitian Americans who come as volunteers, sometimes for a week or two, and sometimes for far longer. Some have stayed two years. All have made a tangible difference in the community.
Our volunteers do a wide variety of things. Some have taught art, photography, or writing. Some have tutored students or run summer camps for kids. Others have taught basic survival skills such as organic farming and gardening. Others have taught practical skills like computer use, accounting, or how to assess a business idea and make a business plan.
In a community like Matènwa, needs are large and often basic. The education and skills that Haitian Americans have acquired from their daily lives of living, working and going to school in the U.S. are useful and uncommon in Haiti. The exposure to technology, infrastructure, and education, things we take for granted if we live in the U.S., creates skill sets, resources, and talents that can be put to powerful use
in a resource-poor setting like Matènwa. In Matènwa, education, technology, and skills of so many kinds are in extremely short supply due to gaps in education and economics.
Our Haitian American volunteers are a bridge between Haiti and the U.S. Many, but not all, speak creole. Many have a feeling and understanding for Haitian culture. Once back home, they are able to translate Haitian customs and practices to other Americans and share their experiences to raise awareness about Haiti. Some have blogged about their experiences in Matènwa to a wider community in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world. Through volunteering, young Haitian Americans also have reconnected with a place that they know in some sense but may have never experienced directly in quite this way before.