Despite having more fun than the law allows during numerous solo vacations in the Dominican Republic, I vowed last year to never return. Why? Was I fleeing the Policía Nacional Dominicana because of some of that extralegal fun?
Nope. I refuse to spend another dime in the D.R. because of its treatment of Haitians living in the country. They’re kicking out Haitians of Dominican descent, a mass deportation that Amnesty International has called “reckless” and “a human rights crisis.”
A friend who is going there Thursday laughed when I suggested she go elsewhere. She is going to the Dominican Republic, she said, to undergo a medical procedure which, in this country, would cost five times what she’ll pay there. She did, though, promise to donate money to a hurricane relief fund to help Haitians in Haiti survive and rebuild from yet another natural disaster.
So can you.
Once again, a weather event that has for most of us disrupted our travel plans, left some of us without electricity for a few hours, that has – in other words – been an inconvenience of varying degrees, has devastated that small nation.
Ever wonder, “How do those Haitians survive the countless calamities that seem to befall their country?”
Degage, that’s how.
Jeanette Fuccella, executive director of Hearts with Haiti, said that word – which translates to “make do with what you have” – is behind the resilience of people who’ve suffered so much. “That’s every day what the people there do,” Fuccella told me Saturday. “They take each day as it comes and make do with what they have. They’re a creative culture that figures out how to overcome obstacles… They just figure out a way to go beyond.”
I saw some degage the other night when three Haitian dudes on a small bike rode in two feet of fetid water past the TV news camera. One stood and pedaled, one sat on the handlebars and the other sat on the seat. They were, as Fuccella said, figuring out a way to go beyond.
I asked her what we can do to make sure they do more than “make do” after more than 200 are presumed dead from the hurricane and thousands more made homeless by it.
“In addition to prayers, they need financial support. The people there know what they need,” she said, noting that often in situations such as this, well-meaning people end up sending unusable, unneeded items, the sending of which may make them feel better but does little to better the situation.
Before you send money, though, she said, “you should look for an organization with ‘feet on the ground’ and that has a direct relationship with the people of Haiti, one that has had a presence there since before the (2010) earthquake. You should research the organizations you give money to. I don’t want to disparage any group,” she said, before pointing out the exorbitant overhead of some well-known, large charities.
All large organizations don’t fall into that category, April Perry told me Friday. Perry, a Duke nurse who has done a lot of relief work in Haiti and led mission teams there after previous calamities, cited two organizations she’d recommend donating to – http://www.projectmedishare.org and www.haitimedicalmissionsofmemphis.org.
“They’re both quite large,” she said, “but they only have three percent overhead.” That means, she said, that 97 cents of every dollar goes directly to providing medical relief and rebuilding houses and other buildings.
Haitians, she said, seconding Fuccella, “are very resilient people. This is life for them. They’re used to having crises. They have a lot of heart. What they don’t have is a lot of government support” such as exists in America. She’s right. We Americans have a lot of government support. We also have a lot of heart, heart we’re not shy about opening when it comes to helping people in trouble.
Please, open your hearts to Haiti, because this is a crisis that we can actually affect. Do your due diligence – then do something.
BY BARRY SAUNDERS