Friday, January 15, 2010

Reconstructing Haiti Is a Worthy Pursuit

George Clooney, pictured, will host "Hope for Haiti" from Los Angeles, while Wyclef Jean will hold it down in New York. A who's who of big names is expected to participate in the telethon airing at 8 tonight on most major networks/channels. Photo courtesy of MTV News.

“WHY, God, why,” so many ask when there is a great injustice or tragedy. It’s been no different for Haiti, which was rocked 12 January by an earthquake that has wrought countless deaths/injuries, unspeakable misery and decimated the country's already dilapidated infrastructure.

On virtually every newscast, announcers, reporters and interviewees have wondered why do such natural calamities seem to occur disproportionately in places where people are the worst off. Almost without exception, they cite that very familiar and clichéd statistic about Haiti, that it is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

But a few others, mainly outside of the mainstream media, suggest the statement should be recast as a question: “Why is Haiti the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere?” On tonight’s edition of the Charlie Rose Show, the Haitian Ambassador to the United States alluded to this. “Perhaps, the world will begin to recognize Haiti,” Raymond Joseph said. “Perhaps, it’s time to reflect on how Haiti became that way.”

Typically and sadly, the answer is injustice and greed. Far be it for Yours Truly to point fingers, but allow me to point the way to sources that do so unflinchingly. The first is “Haiti, A Slave Revolution: 200 Years after 1804,” by Ramsey Clark, award-winning Haitian-born novelist Edwidge Danticat et al. There is also the essay by J. Damu, “How the U.S. Impoverished Haiti.”

Another hew and cry is that Haiti needs a Marshall Plan, a makeover it could have benefited from before the quake. For those who have forgotten their grade-school civics, the MP is that massive reconstruction project that the United States undertook after World War II to rebuild Western Europe. While it may be too early to call – especially since the rescue is not fully operational and there are challenges getting basic aid supplies into the Caribbean nation, and it is the tragedy du jour – Haiti may become the beneficiary of a massive reconstruction, courtesy of the world, in the public and private sectors.

The list of nations offering assistance is a long one, including Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Spain and, of course, the United States. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to be on the ground in Haiti on Saturday for meetings and reconnaisance. And President Barack Obama has pressed former presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush II into service as goodwill ambassadors/fundraisers, hence the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.

Scores of companies, charitable organizations, celebrities and individuals – with the possible exception of Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson – are parting with time, talent and money for the recovery. Deutsche Bank’s Global Markets Equity Group donated the $4 million it made today from trading commissions. The German bank also created a matching-funds program for U.S. employees. My favorite donation program, which I’ve availed myself of, is the text initiative of the American Red Cross. Basically, text HAITI to 90999 and $10 goes to the relief effort and the charges will appear on your mobile/cell phone.

Next Friday (22 Jan), check your local listings for “Hope for Haiti.” The star-studded telethon – airing at 8 Eastern time on ABC, BET, CBS, CMT, CNN, the CW, Fox, HBO, MTV, NBC and VH1 – will be hosted in Los Angeles by George Clooney and in New York by Wyclef Jean, who has been doing charity work in his mother country for years. Funds raised from the telethon will go to various charitable organizations, including Oxfam and WJ’s foundation, Yele Haiti. (Alas, Yele Haiti is being scrutinized by the IRS but at this writing has not been officially called out for any funny business.)

Naturally, if Haiti is returned beyond its former glory (before the interlopers, squatters, conquerors, figureheads and despots), it won't erase horrific memories of the earthquake, but it will significantly contribute to the healing of a grateful nation.

At a press conference this afternoon, where he restated the country’s financial, humanitarian and military commitment to our neighbor to the south, President Obama relayed a message from Haitian president René Préval: “From the bottom of my heart and on behalf of the people of Haiti, thank you, thank you, thank you.”

For more information about ways to help in Haiti, visit, which has the most comprehensive list and has the added advantage of being vetted by the government, for what that’s worth … Learn more about the Red Cross initiative at … Learn more about Deutsche Bank’s initiative at … Learn more about the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund at ... Learn more about the Yele Haiti Foundation at ... Learn more about “Hope for Haiti” at the Web site of the respective broadcasters, or Google it ... New Yorkers can also donate by dialing 311.

No comments :

Post a Comment

Creative Commons License
VEVLYN'S PEN: The Wright take on life by Vevlyn Wright is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License .
Based on a work at .
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at .