Diaspora Haitians, go home despite the distrust

Street vendor in Jacmel, Haiti. (Swiatoslaw Wojtkowiak, Flickr)

by Deborah D. David

Of all the obstacles to face when returning home to Haiti, I never would have guessed my own people would be one of them.  Years ago when I was preparing to graduate college, an organization in Port-au-Prince hired me to work with ti machann, street vendors. I was really excited; I’d written my senior thesis about microcredit in Haiti.  What my university work could not prepare me for however, was the resistance of my Haitian co-workers to the “just come” in their midst.

When I tried to find out more about how programs operated, suspicious program managers wanted to know why. When I did my own research and discussed my understanding of operations, people became tight-lipped and rarely confirmed or disagreed. When I suggested how we could operate more efficiently, I was told that I didn’t know what I was talking about because I hadn’t lived in the country.

For the past seven months, I have thought extensively about how Haiti can do a better job integrating its sons and daughters living abroad back into society. It must start at the top.

Disappointingly, when forming the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, the Haitian government did not consider the Diaspora–even though we contribute an estimated $2 billion in remittances each year. It was only after a request and I assume some political pressure that the government agreed to a non-voting position, only, for the Diaspora.

Haiti’s next government must be different.  It should include a reasonable number of qualified Diaspora.

Right now, one of the catchwords of the international aid community in Haiti is “capacity building.”  The state is weak.  Even if it wanted to help its people, especially since the earthquake’s death toll, the government doesn’t have the human resources to do so.  It’s clear that the expertise is going to come from abroad. Who better to advocate for Haitians than their brothers and sisters who understand both their social norms and those of the foreign aid community?

Even now though, the Diaspora face difficulties when returning home.  One gentleman in a recent Miami Herald article said that for the first few years, he was called blanc, foreigner.

Haitians don’t seem to realize that many first generation Haitians living abroad rarely become so assimilated that they forget that they are Haitian. Therefore, their distancing attitude places us in cultural purgatory; we are too foreign for both our host countries and the land of our birth, too.

Despite the resistance, Diaspora who go to Haiti to help as many have been since the earthquake, should not take passive roles.  Continue to organize.  And fight to ensure that our opinions and voices help to shape the future of Haiti.

Deborah D. David is a Haitian-American living in Caracas, Venezuela with her husband and two children. She holds a master’s of science in administration from the University of West Florida and currently blogs at Balanced Melting Pot about raising her children as second-generation immigrants.


9 Comments to “Diaspora Haitians, go home despite the distrust”

  1. Quigley but she seems to be such an eccentric one that you’re not really sure whether you like
    her or not. In truth, LED grow lights can function for over 50,000 hours.
    Although colder weather shuts down and destroys tender vegetable
    plants, you do have an alternative for growing your own succulent vegetables, and that is to utilize a grow closet and
    garden indoors.

  2. My own family dismissed me when I try to talk about Haitian politics. They say # 1 I’m a woman and #2 I’m wasn’t brought up in Hairi or educated there. So therefore my opinion doenst matter or valid. Very good piece BMP!

    • That, too, is another problem within Haitian society. I have to say that I’ve seen some effort from the government, especially since Aristide, to include women in high level posts. The actual Minister of Foreign Affairs is a woman. But, yes, we have a lot of progress to make in terms of inclusion.

    • Judy, so what’s your family’s opinion about Haitian political candidates fundraising in diaspora cities for elections back home? Seems to me, giving money to a candidate is almost like voting, no? What do you think?

    • Well, I must tell you that your parents will have that same opinion whether you like it or not. Your best bet is to dig up what you can by yourself if that’s your passion. I’m afraid that it will take a long time to transition from our current “women have their place” ideology into the independent woman of the postmodern world. Be mindful that even Haitian women may be hesitant or even reluctant to that type of change since their current status may be all they have known. But I’m confident that eventually Most will see the light. I commend you of your curiosity about your roots. Many Haitian parents deny the second generation their right to their heritage, a disservice, if you ask me. One word of caution though: Independence has its price. we may witness a boom in single-motherhood and even a drop in formal conjugal life. Haitian men will need to learn how to transition with the sharper, more sophisticated, and intellectual Haitian marabou. They will have learn how to relinquish some of that authoritarian role and learn how to share roles in the family. So much work to do, so much.

  3. No worries – it was team effort 🙂

    Please pass along your piece about the Haitian diaspora when it’s finished. I’m always interested to hear other points of view.

  4. Forgive me Deborah. I automatically assumed that it was Carla’s post. My apologies.

  5. Great piece Carla! The exclusion of the diaspora in haitian affairs is a major problem, especially since it’s a major economic force keep the country afloat. I’m currently working on a rather lengthy piece about the diaspora that many will hate me for but I don’t mind. The truth must be told. You hit several key points here: there definitely is a disconnect between those living abroad and their fellow countrymen and the gap is even wider for the second generations. Having been in this country haitians should know a thing or two about organizing. There is power in numbers and if several organizations lobby the UN, influential countries, and the Haitian government, there is no way the diaspora would be dismissed. The Haitian NGOs are few and unorganized. Everybody is trying to do its own thing. It’s time to start thinking collectively to move the mountain that’s in the way of the diaspora. Individual efforts will get us nowhere. Again I congratulate you on a substantive post. You exposed and age-old problem that many have complained about but have ignored for far too long.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: