Just back from another great group trip...
Most of my work in Haiti at this point unfolds under the umbrella of an organization called "Haiti Allies." You can find out more about this organization and how you can join our efforts by visiting our website www.haitiallies.org
Very briefly, Haiti Allies promotes education and food in Haiti. We help support an elementary school (Community School of Cite Soleil or "CSCS") and feeding program in one of Haiti's most impoverished and volatile shanty towns on the outskirts of Port au Prince called "Cite Soleil."
We also help oversee a sponsorship program called "SPARE"-- Sponsorship Program Aiding Relationships and Education. Through the SPARE program students are paired up with sponsoring individuals or communities in the U.S. who support students financially and relationally as they continue their education through secondary and university level. The first two graduates of the SPARE program are now the principal and vice principal of the
Since February, 2012 we have been in partnership with a tent camp that came into being after the earthquake of 2010. Through the generosity of persons in our network we were able to help this tent city (they call themselves "Camp Mosaic") relocate on some government appointed land just outside Port au Prince in a rural area near the sea. Haiti Allies has adopted Camp Mosaic as our rural partner, and we look forward to helping them however we can to develop housing, commerce, and agriculture in their new location. Unfortunately, Camp Mosaic was severely damaged in the August 2012 hurricane, and we are now doing our best to help them rebuild modest homes and to reestablish the gardens that were washed away by the hurricane.
Probably the most powerful thing Haiti Allies does is offer life-changing group trips to Haiti which we call "Missions of Mutual Exchange." You can read more about these adventures on our website. The trips take place each February and August. Come to Haiti with us!
I am also on the board of directors of a wonderful organization called "The What If? Foundation." What If? was founded by Margaret Trost of the San Francisco Bay area. Its focus is also on feeding children and helping them secure an education. These programs take place about 5 miles away from Cite Soleil in another area of Port au Prince. We have just begun a campaign to raise funds to build a new cafeteria and school building. Please visit What If?s website www.whatiffoundation.org to find out more about this work.
Here's a rough video of a song I recently wrote called "Poverty Always Has A History." Hope you enjoy it. The lyrics are beneathe the video in case you'd like to read along as you listen.
Poverty Always Has A History
By Bryan Sirchio (All rights reserved)
People ask me what's up with Haiti? Every time I turn around it seems that tiny island country's in a world of pain somehow.
Take the recent earthquake—it's a world class heartache—but the quake that just struck Chile
Was a couple hundred times worse—and –
If you ask me why, the loss of life in Chile--was small compared to Haiti's tragedy.
My response could probably be kept to one word
And that word would be--- "poverty." (But then I'd also say that…)
Poverty always has a history, and compassion with justice won't begin
'Til we learn the facts behind the current misery, and let the story in. Let's let the story in.
We've got to go way back to Europe, to understand Haitian history, and ask whatever happened millennia ago to the race we call Caucasian—that we embraced the notion—with conviction and emotion—that light skinned folks should own—those whose skin was dark
In many ways this world—has not begun to recover—from the—layers of wounds left by slavery
And Haiti's current crisis—can not be understood--
Apart from Haiti's role in slave trade history
In the year 1804, when the Haitian nation was born—it was the first time in history that slaves successfully—rose up and overthrew—through violent revolution--their European masters--- In this case it was the French.
And you'd think the USA, with our own history—of violent revolution—as a former colony
Would've celebrated Haiti's hard won liberty. But instead we joined the French to crush those slaves economically-- There were sanctions and embargoes until 1863
When the U.S. fin'ly dealt with it's own slavery (to some degree, and…)
So this fiercely independent country run by former slaves—was undermined from the very start by France and the USA-- France demanded reparations for the slaves they lost—and forced Haiti into debt to pay this off—(20 billion dollars by today's currency)
Then the U.S. sent marines and took Haiti by force—from 1915 to 1934-- We charged the Haitians taxes-- We ran their institutions—We even sent young FDR to write Haiti's constitution.
From 1957 to '86 the U.S.A.-- propped up dictators Poppa Doc and Baby Duvalier
They terrorized their people and when finally forced away—they left Haiti with another crippling debt to pay
But once again this land of former slaves had liberty—They held their own elections and embraced democracy-- They tried to put an end to the sweatshop labor travesty--
But then CIA backed soldiers intervened (2 diff'rent coup d'etats)
And I'm not saying Haiti hasn't made it's own share of mistakes
But they've been ravaged for cheap labor and their resources stripped away
And recently we've learned that deep beneath the Haitian soil
They've discovered there are huge reserves of oil -- and
Poverty always has a history
When a people gets so poor, and it's government's kept so weak
That certain things like building codes are a foreign luxury
Folks must choose between buying something for their kids to eat
And buying things like rebar to reinforce concrete
So they piece their homes together-- weak cement and salvaged blocks
They stack them on the hillsides – or wherever they can squat
And they're grateful for a roof above and 4 walls all around—
But when the earth began to shake-- they just fell down –
Thanks so much, God bless you, and I hope to hear from you one way or the other.