At the beginning of this year, our thoughts turn once more to the Haitian people. Five years after the earthquake, Haiti is in remembrance for the suffering that was caused and rekindling the hope that was dashed.
ATD Fourth World members remind us that in the aftermath of the destruction on the evening of the 12th January 2010, and amidst the chaos of the ensuing weeks, neighbours from all walks of life, of all ages, found themselves on the street, empty handed, broken hearted, sleeping at night on the ground side by side as one. This experience of solidarity brought with it the hope that any rebuilding could be based on a new spirit of togetherness. But gradually, with the means at their disposal, people sought what little “security” remained and retreated to their own courtyards. Finally, those left destitute by the disaster were alone together outdoors, some forced to seek refuge in camps for the displaced.
Later the country found itself awash with a tide of humanitarians and experts, under the control of international aid agencies. There was tremendous hope that this aid would enable the country to get back on its feet, with input from the Haitian people who had a very clear idea of what they wanted for their country. From the outset, Haitians called less for reconstruction and more for a re-founding of the nation based on unity. Their efforts could have enabled everyone to have had a roof over their head, work, access to health care and free schooling.
Five years later, many Haitians, among them members of ATD Fourth World, express their disappointment. Of course there have been achievements as far as reconstruction is concerned, but not the opportunities that were hoped for. Haitians still aspire to show what is needed: an awareness that nobody should be left out of matters that concern the common good and the well-being of the community, because everyone has a stake in this as well as something to offer. They know that no individual, nor people, can overcome the misery of poverty alone.
Haiti calls for us to demand a new type of partnership, one led by the creativity of a people in their search for unity. We can reject the selfishness of an “everyone for themselves” mentality, which saps our strength and sours our humanity, by reaching out in our countries, our neighbourhoods and our communities. Our world is in desperate need of this attitude in order to bring peace and security for everyone.
Isabelle Perrin, Director General
International Movement ATD Fourth World