Thursday, March 25, 2010

Endless Learning

That's what we do here - learn. Just when we think we're starting to "get" Haiti and we let ourselves feel a teeny bit confident, we are shown how very little we understand this culture.

Last week the main point on the agenda for our team meeting was the theft of about 30 of our relief buckets. It seems that as the distribution truck was leaving our depo (warehouse) in Croix-des-Bouquets, a small group of people blocked the road with rocks, forced the truck to stop and stole the buckets... Our material aid distribution folks then called the Croix-des-Bouquets police to accompany them as a security measure. To add insult to injury, the police kept the truck, demanding that they be given relief buckets as well.

Well, Ben and I were outraged by this - theft! corruption! - and were promptly humbled by the response of our Haitian colleagues, which was to acknowledge that the people in that community and the police are also earthquake victims, probably in nearly as much need as our intended beneficiaries (after all, who knows when the police will actually be paid) and that perhaps we should be making sure that the people living around our depo are receiving aid. The Haitian sense of justice and of equality is very different from our own. Where we see corruption that needs to be dealt with, our colleagues see an opportunity for a more equalized distribution of resources.

Just to be clear, I am still not condoning what I still believe to be the theft of our relief supplies. I do, however, think that this has been yet another lesson for me in cultural understanding. Here's to being stretched and transformed into more culturally sensitive people. Someday? I'm keeping my fingers crossed on that one even as I doubt that I will ever truly get there.

5 comments:

Karen said...

Who sings it? Aerosmith?
"Life's a journey, not a destination." (What I really wanted was to sing that for you...)

nerkert said...

After 23 years in Africa, we still learn new things about the culture regularly. The exciting thing is that you ARE learning and are able to see things in something other than the most negative light. We know lots of people who never even got to that point.

Rebecca said...

We had a really similar situation at the clinic - staff members taking hygiene kits intended for mothers and children in camp... So hard to understand what is "just" when people are feeling fundamentally insecure and uncared for. Kenbe fem. R

ianandmonica said...

Learning is so key. We are just beginning this journey in Haiti and hope to have that culturally sensitivity part you speak of more and more. Interestingly, just today I was reflecting on this very thought. I gave away some of our donated hygiene kits to our kitchen and cleaning staff today. You would of thought the world's greatest gift had been given. Then it dawned on me,they have seen so much aid flow in and out for others at our base, what about them? Thanks for helping us get it a bit. We are glad we are here wrestling with these same thoughts.

caleb said...

wow. to keeping fingers crossed. love you guys.

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