The Impact of Development

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

Adam McLane

_MCL3348-1000In late July I had the opportunity to travel to the south coast of Haiti with our mission partner, Praying Pelican Missions.

This was my eighth trip to Haiti. Besides Port-au-Prince and Carrefeur, the economic and population centers of Haiti, I’d only taken day trip to other areas of the island.

But on this trip I traveled alongside three teams of adults from North America who’d come to partner with a local pastor  in a small fishing village west of Les Cayes.

Beauty

We arrived into our small village after dark, set-up camp, and quickly fell asleep. The next morning our team woke up to discover that we’d landed somewhere intensely beautiful. Cool breezes drifted from the Caribbean just 100 yards away, every seven seconds you heard the roar of another wave crashing against the sand, nearby a cool freshwater river ran by  inviting us to swim, and our campsite itself was full of lush gardens.

That first morning we all drank fresh coconut before breakfast and every smartphone filled with pictures of the beach, the palm trees swaying in the wind, the farm animals running freely, and the flowers blooming in every direction.

When I shook Pastor Jean Delcey’s hand at breakfast he asked how I’d slept. “I slept great and I woke up in paradise!

Challenges

In the coming days, as we got to know this small village, they helped us see past the beauty to discover the many challenges facing the community.

Fresh, clean water flowed freely from several wells but there were not enough latrines to meet the needs of the community. Many locals turned to the beach to relieve themselves. In the past couple of years the pastor had helped raise the funds to build three latrines, but they needed at least 27 more.

This lack of sanitation meant that the beach, the communities greatest financial asset, was unusable. Besides human waste, the beach collected local garbage, you can imagine the odor that sometimes accompanied the cool ocean breezes.

Local fisherman depended on shrimp which could be harvested near the shore but not only was the beach contaminated with human waste, but either that or another problem had lead to an infestation of seaweed, depleting the harvest and making it nearly impossible to fish. And when they did harvest? Since the community lacks consistent electricity they don’t have any way to freeze their catch to wait for market prices to go up. Consequently, local buyers take advantage of the fisherman.

Until Pastor was able to start a school, the community’s children had no where to go. Even if they could get to a school they likely couldn’t afford the school fees. The long term result? Many researchers have discovered and holds true not just in Haiti but throughout the developing world, that when you fail to educate a communities children– especially girls– the cycle of poverty spirals out of control as women have more children and earlier. In this community many young women have their first child at 14 years old, the average woman has 6 children.

Hope

Many of the problems we encountered, as shown to us by our Haitian brothers and sisters, are problems which do, indeed, have solutions. They aren’t easy solutions. They aren’t just things to toss money at. But they are problems you can solve when you work collaboratively with a community while strengthening the local church.

Sanitation, education, medical care, family planning, economic development, and food security. Don’t get overwhelmed by those big, fancy, and technical development words. These are things you and I can actually address and make an impact on. They seem huge– and in many ways they are. But they aren’t impossible to address.

As you work with the teenagers in your life to help them see the needs of others, think of this small village and imagine the impact even a small group of them could have on the long-term health of an entire village.

It’s truly exciting!