Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Program I Swear I Don't Run

Phone rings.

Me: Allo?
Stranger: Allo. [Waiting for me to offer to help him]
Me: Allo? [Waiting for stranger to state purpose in calling me]
Stranger: Allo?
Me: (Sigh) Can I help you?*
Stranger: May I speak to Alexis [garbling my last name beyond recognition] Depp ?
Me: Speaking.
Stranger: Hi, I'm calling about the deportee program.
Me: What deportee program?
Stranger: The program that you run for deportees.
Me: I don't run a program for deportees.
Stranger: Yes you do. The one where you give financial assistance to deportees.
Me: I have no idea what you're talking about. I don't run a program for deportees.
Stranger: Is this Alexis Depp?
Me: Yes.
Stranger: Where do you work?
Me: I work for a small organization called the Mennonite Central Committee and I coordinate MCC's advocacy efforts. I did carry out research on the effects of US deportation policy towards Haiti, but I don't run a program for deportees.
Stranger: So what do you do to help deportees?
Me: Um. [Thinking: should I try to explain the long-term benefits to deportees of advocacy for structural change? Decision: No. I am wasting this guy's phone credit]. Nothing. I don't run a program for deportees and I don't have any money available to help you. I'm sorry. I hope you have a nice day.
Stranger: [Hangs up, usually without saying anything].

*this conversation has been translated into English for your benefit. Since many deportees speak far worse Creole than I do, they would probably get the point faster if I did switch to English.

So, the first time I received a call like this (about 2 weeks ago), I thought, "That's funny. I wonder where they got my number." Finally yesterday, after receiving calls from deportees looking for money or assistance on an almost daily basis, I finally asked the voice on the other end of the line where they got my number. His response? The DCPJ. (Central Headquarters of the Judicial Police). This only leaves me with more questions.

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