Rewired?

Greg (see Monday’s post) introduced me to a very engaged discussion forum, Haiti Rewired, where he posed the very important question, “What are Haitian’s feelings about volunteers from abroad?” I am at times in fear of being a part of an effort that is imposing a way and a future on Haiti when, for the cost of my plane ticket down here, several Haitian families could have built themselves a home or whatever they so choose. Here I am helping to build some schools. Twenty years from now, these schools will have started to rot apart and I, and the All-Hands organization, will be long gone. While there are certain skills that we are passing on to the community, and children will learn aplenty in these classrooms, I can’t help but wonder how little of a sustainable impact I am making. As I frustrate over this question, I will help myself sleep at night by knowing that at least this little guy is happy to see me.


3 comments

  1. You know, I’d planned a volunteering trip to Africa that fell through, but I’d done a lot of planning and looking at different organizations, and I came across this little sobering piece:
    http://www.travelindependent.info/b4yougo.htm#Volunteering

    I think the thing to realize is that A) part of the reason we would volunteer, is for ourselves, to feel worthwhile, build self-esteem, confidence, experience, memories, etc and B) that’s not such a terrible thing.

    The selfless deed is elusive and fair enough. And there’s the full spectrum of volunteering and I’m interested to here where you think All-Hands stands, after your stint, Will.

    There’s plenty of organizations out there that are outright doing more harm than good. But this is what research and forethought is for, and I know you don’t lack either.

    Still, the question you raised about spending money on plane tickets rather than donating directly to a worthy cause is important. I think the answer depends largely on your skillset and the amount of time you give. Someone unskilled such as myself, hoping to do a 2 week stint, is probably not very helpful, especially compared to just staying home, and sending the money to pay a local to do the work. But surely volunteering can be a great thing for the participant, enriching their life and via blogs (for example), those around them.

    So it’s a question of balance. What types of projects create the most positive, lasting change? How skilled does one need to be in order to be of real help? What sort of time commitment justifies the whole thing? Obviously, it depends on the situation, but I look forward to hearing your hindsight perspective on your experience in Haiti.

    “What are Haitian’s feelings about volunteers from abroad?” I am at times in fear of being a part of an effort that is imposing a way and a future on Haiti when, for the cost of my plane ticket down here, several Haitian families could have built themselves a home or whatever they so choose. Here I am helping to build some schools. Twenty years from now, these schools will have started to rot apart and I, and the All-Hands organization, will be long gone. While there are certain skills that we are passing on to the community, and children will learn aplenty in these classrooms, I can’t help but wonder how little of a sustainable impact I am making. As I frustrate over this question, I will help myself sleep at night by knowing that at least this little guy is happy to see me.

  2. the schools may rot but all things find an end in life… think of all the children that will get an opportunity in each one of those buildings that you are helping to build, the experiences and life that will be shared and had in each one. Don’t get discouraged Will with every great idea there is someone to let you know how awful the idea is… I think what your doing is a great thing and I suspect this sweet little smile would share that perspective 🙂


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