The Hearts of Haiti are Stronger than the Statistics
Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world. More than 6 million out of the 10.4 million Haitians (59%) are living below the national poverty line of CAD $3.16 per day and over 2.5 million (24%) are living below the national extreme poverty line of CAD $1.61 per day. (The World Bank April 2018)
50% of urban Haitians are unemployed.
100,000 thousand children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition.
One in three children are stunted or irreversibly short for their age due to lack of a healthy food supply.
Less than 50% of households have access to safe water and only 25% benefit from adequate sanitation.
One third of Haitian women and children are anemic.
10% of the richest Haitians possess 70% of the country’s total income.
50% of all Haitian children do not attend school. Of those that do attend school, approximately 30% will not make it past the third grade.
These statistics are heart breaking … and the list just goes on and on. But while Haitians are eager to have their voices heard about the desperation of their lives, there is another side to Haiti and the Haitian people that they also want the world to see.
Amidst the rubble that remains long after the 2010 devastating earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people, and despite the category 4 hurricane in 2016 that led to another 1,000 deaths and a cholera outbreak, the strength, determination and perseverance of the Haitian people never waivers.
This photo, taken shortly after the 2010 earthquake, exemplifies the
strength of the Haitian people.
What has always stood out to me every single time I am in Haiti is difficult to summarize in a few words. It is something I could sense within a few minutes of stepping off the plane the first time I arrived in Haiti in 2013. It is something that continues to amaze me to this day. Rather than words, perhaps it is best described in a metaphor.
Imagine a group of children without a single toy, crayon or doll to be had. Now imagine that same group of children happily playing with the cars they proudly made from rocks and sticks, the laughter and smiles as they engage in a clapping game, and the cheers of joy as they shoot a soccer ball made of duct tape into a mosquito net hung from a tree.
Without understanding a word of each other’s language, the children
taught me some of their evening clapping songs.
Imagine a family walking for miles at 5:00 every morning to access clean drinking water and then spending the day on the side of the road in heat that often climbs to 37 degrees celsius, selling mangos, coal or chickens, often earning less than CAD $3.27 a day for their efforts. To put this amount into perspective, the average BBQ chicken meal with rice and beans that is sold by street vendors there is $7.00. Now imagine that same family returning home after their gruelling day in the sun, often to minimal or no food on their table, coming together with other families to sing and dance, sharing some stories and some laughs long into the evening.
Every single time that I have travelled to Haiti I have always been asked by the Haitian people to bear witness to the beauty of Haiti and its people and to take that image and those feelings back home instead of only seeing poverty, disease and tears. Haitians are strong, resilient and have huge hearts. They value family and community above all else. They don’t go inside, shutting their doors and their neighbours out as evening closes in. They open them, come together, sing, dance and exude an energy of love and beauty that I have never been witness to before.
Haiti and its people are so much more than statistics. They are survivors.