An all too common misconception is that the white man (the blan, the foreigner) in every circumstance fills the provider role. It is he that has something to offer, whether aid, work, food, clothing, training, tools, a means, an end, something, anything…all the time. Regardless of what it is the white person has to offer, the point is that he’s the one in the position to offer something. It separates one from another, those who have something to offer and those who don’t. Everybody knows it, or should I say everyone can feel it.
We’ve found this horribly crippling notion to be well…horribly crippling. A concept we wish we could crumple up and toss in the fire alongside the sugar cane stumps that will burn into something fresh and new.
Giving jobs used to be my favorite part about my humanitarian efforts in Haiti. While I tried to stay far away from hand-outs I considered giving a job to be the absolute best thing I could offer anyone. It’s a pretty sweet offer. You work, I pay. You provide for your family.
Now I see things in a whole new way. Two days on the property changed me. Two days working alongside my one-day-sometime-soon neighbors. It’s amazing. It’s like a miracle, but they get it. They get us.
It’s typical that a Haitian assumes that blans (white people, foreigners in general) have loads and loads of money. I mean for good reason. Haiti isn’t completely removed from the wonders of television which often feature the wonders of American life. There's nothing wrong with that. But daily life in America looks a whole lot different than daily life in Haiti. This is why there’s a good chance we (foreigners) get charged more than Haitians.
Amy and I had to get used to being called “cheesh” (cheap) at least once each time we’re the market just because we weren't willing to pay the foreigner price.
Our neighbors haven’t taken that tone. I haven’t heard anybody use the term “cheesh”. But I have heard lots of people say with knowing and concerned looks that they are praying, that they are asking God to bless the land and send money for the project.
I had to make it clear when we when we began work on the land that our budget is modest, more like low. The people took notice that we weren’t yet been able to purchase tools. And that didn’t seem to stop the work. The next day several people showed up with borrowed tools.
The ownership is heartwarming. Usually you have to purchase a container or build a depot to secure all your supplies. But two of our neighbors have offered their homes to store the materials and signed up to keep guard.
This must be what its like to get the community involved. I think this is what it’s about.
Encouragement, time, smiles, help, prayers, support.
Today, when we couldn’t offer anything they jumped at their chance to offer themselves.