The Other Hunger in Haiti

At the beginning of May, ICC USA’s new Communications Director, Kirsten McIlvenna, traveled to Haiti and the Dominican Republic for the first time. She wrote the following upon her return, and we felt it necessary to share with all of you:

The Other Hunger in Haiti

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been in Haiti, and as I’m now back stateside and trying to write about my experience, I have to admit I’m struggling. I’ve started many drafts which have turned into endless pages. I still feel like I’m adjusting back to life in the US where I have the comfort of walking around outside by myself, drinking the water from the faucet, using my cell phone, and falling asleep to silence. Yet I also miss the fresh mango and pineapple for breakfast, the sugarcane soda, the beautiful mountains, and all the people I was fortunate enough to meet. Friends and family continue to ask me how my trip was, but it’s been a challenge to fully convey all the experience caused me to think and feel.

On one side of things, I see the great, great need that exists in Haiti. I saw areas in Port-au-Prince where people are still living in tents from the earthquake, surrounded by odds and ends that they have collected in hopes of selling it to buy someting to eat. I’ve seen the dirty water sources and the mounds and rivers of trash baking under the hot sun. I saw single mothers that have zero source of income and several mouths to feed. I’ve heard from healthcare workers that visit people that are so sick they can’t leave their homes and just hope someone comes by with help. 

But that is not all I saw. I also saw the smiles and laughter of the children in the inpatient ward when the teacher, Kisla Dade Pierre-Louis (also full of energy and smiles), came out singing with instruments to engage the kids. I was cheerfully greeted “Bonjou” by just about every person I walked past in the hospital—patients, staff, and otherwise. 

I listened to the Community Health Coordinator Alberta Monpremier speak passionately about her job, at times taking money from her own pocket to help save lives of those in the community she serves. I witnessed the trust women living in isolated communities in Port-au-Prince give to Alberta.

I saw the dedication and intellect of ICC Haiti’s National Director Dr. Josette Bijou as she exerts all of her energy into facing the challenges of public health in Haiti. I met a group of people in northern Haiti that walked many miles to the clinic to welcome us and share with our video crew how ICC has impacted the community. One woman who has been a health agent for 20 years with ICC continues to help and walks endless miles to pregnant women’s homes to educate them about nutrition and healthy practices—despite ICC no longer being able to pay her (due to lack of funding for the project). She does this because she wants to contribute to the community any way she can. I met so, so many people there that are hardworking, dedicated, compassionate, and hungry for change.

That’s the hunger in Haiti that is often overlooked. Yes, Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. So many people suffer. But it’s also a country like so many others where the people work so hard just to make ends meet. They are hungry for change and improvement but also for us “blan” (foreigners) to understand how difficult change is in Haiti and for us to work with them, without judgment and without coming in and simply doing for them.

Rather, it is our responsibility to empower them, come alongside them, and share in their motivation and vision—because I’ll tell you, it’s there. I’m extremely proud to work for International Child Care, an organization that listens to the community and empowers them to make the change they seek. And I’m proud to promote and share with you all the amazing work ICC-Haiti is doing.

And, I’m hungry, too. I want to listen; I want to communicate; I want to learn; and I want to begin to understand. There is so much I don’t know about the country, the culture, the individual stories, and the amazing behind-the-scenes work ICC-Haiti is doing.

But I’m taking steps, and I hope you’ll continue as well to learn more about the individuals of ICC-Haiti that make change possible, follow us on Facebook and Twitter to see the small and big ways Haiti is succeeding, subscribe to our newsletter for updates on the children and families whose lives are impacted, donate to help those success stories come to fruition, and have open minds and hearts to all Haiti has to say.