Published Wed, Oct 20, 21.
Written by Rebecca Honorat.
The first thing I have done each morning this week is search for news about the recent kidnappings in Haiti. I was grateful to hear that the four Haitian men from Grand Goave were released but I am disturbed that it is taking so long for the 17 foreigners to be released. I am praying that they will be released without any ransom being paid as I worry about foreigners being targeted if this kidnapping is lucrative for the gang.
This morning I read a CNN article that quoted an 81-year-old nun who was in a group that was kidnapped in Haiti a few months ago. She was kidnapped by the gang 400 Mawozo - the same gang that kidnapped the group of 17 foreigners on the weekend. The nun, and the rest of her group, were released after their ransom was paid. What struck me in the article was the way the nun described the relationship they developed with their security guards. I encourage you to read the whole article, but here is the part that struck me;
“They told us about their lives. They were young men who had just come out of prison and who could find no work other than taking up arms and becoming guards for hostages. They didn’t even know the gang leaders for whom they were working. They were sort of hostages as well.”
Some may hear that quote and think that the nun is just making an excuse for the security guards, that there is always an alternative choice. You wouldn’t be wrong.
But what would you have done if you had recently lost a child due to malnutrition? What choice would you make if you didn’t have the money to take your wife to the hospital when she needed it? What if you couldn’t afford to send your child to school and you knew that education was the only way to break the chain of poverty in your family?
Some may read that and think that I’m just being dramatic in order to make a point. I’m not.
Alongside’s first motorcycle loan was given to a young man who wanted to leave a gang but was afraid to because he needed to support his family. He had lost a child due to malnutrition and was desperate to take care of the rest of his children. His wife had become ill while pregnant and he couldn’t take her to the hospital. His oldest child was school age but he couldn’t afford to send him. Fast forward a year… he has cut all ties with the gang, his oldest child is being sponsored to go to school, he has paid off his first motorcycle loan, and he has taken a second loan to grow his business. The pressure for him to rejoin the political unrest this past year has been immense - he would have made much more money that way. But he chose not too.
Did he make a better choice than the security guard that watched over the nun? Yes.
Did he have an opportunity that the security guard didn’t? Most likely.
I would love to be able to dissect the unrest in Haiti and be able to come up with a plan to “fix” the situation but I have to accept that I can't. I could try to judge decisions made by others but I shouldn’t. I’ve never faced the circumstances that they have faced. I have led a very privileged life. I have had opportunities that many of them didn’t have. Does that mean I can’t help? Absolutely not.
The desire to provide opportunities was the driving force that led Renel & I to start Alongside Families in Haiti Society. You can read more about our story on the Our Beginning page of Alongside's website.
We should acknowledge our privilege, be thankful for it, and then strive to provide some of the opportunities we received to others. Alongside's programs - the Sponsorship Program and the Small Business Loan Program - were designed to be those opportunities. It may only be a drop in the bucket, but the ripple effect will be impactful.
As Renel & I watch the news & speak to friends & family in Haiti this week, our hearts are heavy and our minds are consumed, but we are also grateful. We are thankful that we have an avenue to help provide them with opportunities so that they aren't faced with impossible decisions like so many Haitians are. We choose to focus on what can be done, not what can't be.
Thank you for partnering with us in this endeavour - together we can make a difference!
Rebecca Honorat Founder & Executive Director Alongside Families in Haiti Society
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Alongside Families in Haiti Society is a Registered Canadian Charity