Jamie Dean for WORLD

Aid in action

Haiti | In Haiti the labor is plentiful but the harvests are few. What kinds of programs work toward long-term change?

Issue: "After the revolution," Feb. 26, 2011

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti-On the furrowed roads of rural Haiti, foreign faces in the back of an open pickup truck draw attention. Some children shout the common moniker for a foreigner-"Blan!"-and others display their English skills: "Hey you!" But some Haitian children display something else they've learned about foreigners, as they stretch open their arms and cry in Creole: "Give us something!"

Short-term workers sometimes toss toys and other trinkets to children from the back of trucks. The well-intentioned gesture has an often-damaging result: It leads Haitians to equate missionaries and other foreigners with immediate, free-flowing goods.

After last year's 7.0-magnitude earthquake in Haiti, immediate goods were critical. One year later-with close to a million living in tents and thousands suffering from cholera and other diseases-overwhelming needs fester in a complex system of deep-rooted problems that span generations, and raise the big question: What kind of help does Haiti need most?

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Steve Corbett, co-author of When Helping Hurts, says the best help among Christian groups has a common thread: Helping Haitians to be productive over the long term instead of continually focusing on immediate needs. Good help also emphasizes vital lessons about God's design of men and women as workers made in His image, and waits patiently for change that sometimes takes years-not months. Efforts that fail in these areas often fail to produce lasting change.

With thousands of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in Haiti, here's a look at just two of the Christian groups applying a long-term philosophy to a race for Haitian recovery that's less of a sprint and more of a marathon.

In most corners of Haiti, the laborers are plentiful, but the harvests are few. A nearly 80 percent unemployment rate cripples the economy, and a radically deforested landscape leaves hillsides barren and Haitians dependent on imported food.

But on a recent Friday morning in a series of lush, green fields less than 10 miles east of the dusty streets of Port-au-Prince, handfuls of Haitians bent over long, straight rows of beans and spinach, reaping what they had sowed. The workers are local, and the fields belong to Double Harvest, a Christ-centered, agricultural project serving Haitians since 1978.

The organization, which has projects in eight other countries, maintains nearly 200 acres of land in Haiti and a work-driven philosophy. "We don't like handouts," says director Frantz Angus. "So we have the people participate."

Nearly 150 Haitians work directly for the ministry, culti­­vating and caring for crops like sorghum, corn, carrots, and tomatoes. Others tend to a series of tilapia tanks that hold over 100,000 fish. The organization sells the produce and fish to locals at reasonable prices, and the locals often resell the food at market, allowing the ministry to bolster local economies instead of compete with them.

Crepsint Claibime is a Haitian who has mastered all the stages of planting and harvesting and now teaches others how to produce crops. Standing near a row of workers moving through the deep green fields, Claibime holds up a full, leafy bunch of fresh spinach: "I like to show people that they can do this for themselves." Plenty of locals do just that: The ministry allows nearby residents to use plots of land on a rotating basis to grow food for selling or eating.

Workers at the group's vast seed bank have also begun the process of distributing some 300,000 trees for planting this year-one tree for each victim killed in the quake. Helping reverse the catastrophic deforestation in Haiti is critical to the country's ability to produce food on a large scale, says Angus, the director.

Poverty-stricken Haitians have felled the country's trees for fuel and building material over the last two decades, making the soil far less viable for growing crops. Angus says early efforts to make 2010 "the year of reforestation" quickly changed into "the year of rebuilding" after the January quake.

With rebuilding efforts moving slowly in Haiti, Double Harvest has launched a project to build at least 200 homes in nearby villages, already com­pleting more than 75 houses, and allowing village committees to decide who gets the homes. Unlike the thousands of temporary structures built by other groups, these houses are permanent: Haitian construction workers build the 350-square-foot structures with reinforced concrete.

On a recent afternoon in the adjacent village, Eva Benu stood outside mixing cement for her Double Harvest home with local construction workers. The earthquake destroyed her house, along with the homes of nearly 40 percent of the village residents. Benu's makeshift shelter leans sideways next to her developing concrete home. A small door is the only opening in her squat, temporary structure built with pieces of salvaged metal. A single mother, Benu looks at her new home and smiles widely: "I like the windows best."


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