More questions than answers

Haiti, a year after the earthquake, still looks like there has been a recent major disaster. The Presidential Palace in Port au Prince is uninhabitable and barely standing. A strong wind or another earthquake would complete its destruction, yet it has not been torn down or renovated. Why not? It just barely stands in the background and thousands of tents housing hundreds-of-thousands of people sit directly across the street from it.

There are no signs on the Palace gates pointing in the direction of temporary offices; it just remains an eyesore and a constant reminder of the horrible tragedy of the Jan.12, 2010 earthquake that shook this part of the world and left Haiti in chaos.

One year later there is still chaos in Haiti. I can’t help but wonder what Haiti was like before the earthquake. How has it changed? Is this so call “new Haiti” better or worse than the pre-quake Haiti?

From the moment we stepped off the plane in Haiti this past Nov. 13, our visit was an unforgettable experience. There were eleven of us from all across the U.S. representing each of the church’s five jurisdictions. We were a rainbow group, in fact this was one of the most diverse mission teams of which I have been a part. We were Hispanic Latino, Haitian, Black and White, men and women, young adults and older adults. We spoke English, Spanish and Creole.

As we walked from the airport, Haitians greeted and surrounded us attempting to carry our luggage. We where briefed in orientation that if someone touches our bag, he or she expects to be paid for helping carry it. We were instructed to only give our bags to Danielle, who worked for the Methodist Guest House. As I made my way through the crowd, all I heard was “Buy something from me,” “Give me something please,” “Baby,” “Sweetie,” “Look at me,” “Care for me,” “Help me please”!

I finally made my way to our Tap-Tap cab where we placed our luggage, got in and headed to the guest house. We moved ever too slowly in the heavy traffic. I couldn’t help but wonder where all of these people were going. Why were the roads so crowded? About an hour later, we arrived at the Methodist Guest House. We dropped off our luggage and were loaded into a van to go to lunch at the Baptist Mission.

When we arrived at the mission, we saw vendors, gift shops, the restaurant and the view from the top of the mountain. As I walked into the mission, I noticed a man carrying two young girls. Upon first glance I thought he had adopted these girls, because they did not look like him. I continued walking towards them, smiled and waved to the girls and the man. He stopped as the girls waved. I spoke to them and ask him their names. He introduced one of the girls as Rosalinda.

When he went to introduce the other girl, he said she didn’t have a name yet. I was puzzled as he began to explain. He told me he just received her that morning from a friend, because she was left on his friend’s doorstep. His friend brought her to him, because he and his wife were starting a girl’s orphanage. They already had two little girls; she was now their third.

My introduction to this young man with the young girls left me with several questions. How does someone from the United States start an orphanage in Haiti? Are there social services in Haiti to help families that can’t afford to feed their children? What other alternatives did this child’s mother have to keep her from abandoning her child? Did her mother sell her in order to feed her other children? Was this kidnapping? What was this girl’s name? Where was this girl’s mother, father, grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins and other relatives? What sort of desperation would force someone to give a child away to strangers? Where was her church? The man, his wife and the three Haitian girls walked away as I remained with all of these questions.

One year after the worst natural disaster within the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, there is still no infrastructure. In many places, communication systems still don’t exist. People still live in tent cities.

Adoption is common, but what is the process for adopting a child in Haiti? There must be new processes developed in Haiti after the earthquake for adoption. It seems however, that new processes for adoption are not in place yet. There are many questions and uncertainty about who to go to for answers. I am told Haiti after the earthquake is very different from the Haiti before the earthquake.

As volunteers in mission, we are guests in Haiti; we must follow the established processes and procedures. If there is no process or procedure in place, do we create our own? No. We need to research and investigate until we find out what we need to know in order to do what we are seeking to do with the people with whom we are serving.

When I returned home from Haiti later in the month, I still had many unanswered questions. Why is the recovery taking so long? What are the safeguards in place to protect the vulnerable? How is the infrastructure being rebuilt? Who will win the presidential election? How does the assistance we send go to those that need it the most?

The disrepair of the Presidential Palace in Port au Prince is a clear indication of the breakdown of many things across the country.

Even though the trip was discouraging in many ways, I did not leave Haiti hopeless. I left Haiti hopeful.

The United Methodist medical students (GBGM scholarship recipients) gave me hope through their sharing, stories and determination to achieve their goals, strong faith in God and commitment to their church and country.

The Rev. LeKisha Reed serves as associate director of mission and advocacy for the Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church. She is based in Indianapolis.

A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.

United Methodist Volunteer in Mission team members Terry Temple (left background) and John Thomas (right background) help lead a game for children outside the Methodist Church in Furcy, Haiti in November 2010. Plans for 12 United Methodist volunteer teams scheduled to travel to Haiti in January as part of the denomination’s earthquake response were canceled due to concerns surrounding the Haitian presidential election. More than 80 UMVIM teams, including several from Indiana, traveled to Haiti from April to October last year. Nearly 180 are scheduled to go this year. Already, 20 teams have committed to 2012. Each team raises $3,500 in project funds, matched dollar-for-dollar through a grant from the United Methodist Committee for Relief. It’s part of an ongoing pattern of providing aid and comfort in this human emergency. United Methodists have contributed more than $40 million for earthquake relief in Haiti. Visit

The disrepair of the Presidential Palace in Port au Prince is a clear indication of the breakdown of many things across the country.