Cover Story

Foreign aid bust

"Foreign aid bust" Continued...

Issue: "Between Hell and Hope," Feb. 12, 2011

Putting those assets to work is an uphill battle. And attracting foreign investment is a difficult prospect.

A standoff over unresolved presidential elections threatens to destabilize the nation further: Haitians are waiting to see whether the government will accept a recommendation from the Organization of American States that would eliminate President René Préval's handpicked candidate, Jude Celestin, from a runoff. The country's ruling party dropped support for Celestin on Jan. 26, but it wasn't immediately clear whether Celestin would withdraw from the race. The government's delay has aroused suspicion that Préval plans to stay beyond the expiration of his second term on Feb. 7.

Haitians protested the initial results favoring Celestin in December, charging rampant election fraud. Riots and demonstrations crippled Port-au-Prince and closed the airport for two days. Rumors swirl that more demonstrations are coming, and that the city will shut down again.

That makes daily life a challenge for Haitians like Harry Derolus, a translator and driver for a handful of Christian organizations. Derolus, whose rental home collapsed in the earthquake, says he constantly wonders if the streets will close and his work will vanish. Whatever happens, he's pessimistic about long-term prospects for political reform: "Even the people in charge aren't really in charge."

Still, Derolus' hopes for Haiti are simple. As he navigates a street lined with heaps of trash and scavenging pigs, Derolus waves a hand and says, "I dream of a Haiti with clean water. I dream of a Haiti where trash is gone."

Esaie Altena has dreams, too. The 44-year-old Haitian driver had a stable life before the quake: His wife worked as a nurse and his five children attended local schools. On the afternoon of Jan. 12, 2010, news started reaching Altena as if it came from Job's servants: His house had collapsed. His possessions were gone. Mrs. Altena's workplace crumbled while she was inside. His wife of nearly 20 years was dead.

Sitting in the miles-long traffic leaving Port-au-Prince, Altena shows a cell phone picture of the children he's now raising alone: Five pretty girls in red school uniforms with pressed, white collars, arm-in-arm, smiling. He says his daughters and his church have offered life-giving comfort in his grief-even as the family sleeps in a tent on a friend's property: "My 6-year-old said to me one day, 'Oh Daddy, why are you crying? Mommy is eating with God now.'"

Altena makes sure to pay for the girls' school fees-even before saving money for a new home. He says his daughters are smart, and he's convinced that education is the only path out of poverty for them. He points to his 11-year-old and smiles: "She wants to be a writer." Tapping on a newspaper on the dashboard, he adds: "That's why I buy a paper for her to read every day."

Painful questions arise: Could these girls overcome these circumstances, go to college, and have careers or families? Altena hopes so, but he knows the chances here are slim. For now, he's encouraging their studies and remaining on a long list of visa applicants hoping to bring families to the United States: "Now I am just waiting."

Meanwhile, millions of other Haitians are waiting to see if their lives will improve. In the next issue of WORLD, we'll preview a handful of Christian organizations in Haiti with a track record of taking small-and sometimes big-steps to bring hope to a seemingly hopeless land. In many cases, they've succeeded where governments have failed.

These workers toil and strive for Haiti because they cling to the hope of the gospel, and they share the sentiment of at least one Haitian in a book of Haitian prayers called God Is No Stranger: "Lord, if we are alive today in spite of hurricanes, hunger and sickness, we should say: 'Thank you, Lord. We must be here for a purpose.'"

Valley of the shadow of death

On the barren hills just outside Port-au-Prince, hundreds of wooden crosses stand in neat rows, offering a vivid reminder of what happened last year. For days after Haiti's Jan. 12 earthquake, workers brought trucks full of mangled bodies for burial in mass graves.

Less than a year later, more bodies arrived here in Titanyen for burial. This time the culprit was cholera-a disease that has killed at least 3,500 Haitians since late last year. Even as aid workers grappled with earthquake recovery and a tropical storm that flooded the epicenter in August, the cholera outbreak brought a disaster within a disaster.

Relief groups like Doctors Without Borders, the Red Cross, and the International Medical Committee responded with cholera clinics and educational campaigns aimed at preventing the spread. By mid-January, the cholera outbreak was subsiding, though doctors warned that the upcoming rainy season could bring its resurgence.

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