Haiti Visit: ‘It Just Takes Time’

Haiti tents

Tent cities have been established throughout the city, including alongside the main road. Photo by Mikaele Sansone/CRS

Fr. Ed Rooney, Diocese of St. Augustine, joined a delegation of four priests, one deacon, and two CRS staff members in a trip to Haiti as part of the Global Fellows program. They went to witness the work of CRS with the intent to share the Haiti story with Catholic communities in the U.S. Fr. Rooney filed this report.

We had been briefed on our CRS Global Fellows seven–day visit to Haiti. We had been briefed well, I thought, but nothing really would have prepared us for what we saw, heard and experienced.

At our first information session with Shannon, the security person, he told us to remember we were in the Caribbean. You think of tropical islands, sun-drenched breaches, dripping forests, drums, dancing and coconuts. But what we got was poverty, disorder, confusion and chaos. Traffic congestion, broken roads, pot holes the size of swimming pools, dust, and people, in tents, in camps, in broken houses and ruined buildings were the reality of the day.

The earthquake was not the prime cause of the situation, but rather deforestation, corruption, ineptness of officials and a brain drain of the most competent Haitians to other parts of the globe. But signs of hope were present too. Children, thousands of well dressed young boys and girls, in school uniforms walking to school along the sides of the streets and roadways. Hope was present in the efforts of the church to lift our fellow brothers and sisters from the anguish and despair of the hellish cycle of poverty that prevailed in their lives.

We saw for ourselves samples of the multiple projects of assistance and development that comprised the agenda of our church. Shelters for the homeless, displaced people who were the victims of the earthquake. Temporary homes built on hillsides and parks, even in the median of the highway, were ubiquitous. And most of all the long term projects of development, planting trees to offset the effects of deforestation, irrigation canals in rice paddies and partnerships with schools and orphanages. Fr. Mark, an Oblate priest who worked to build a school for over 900 children, told us, “if you want things to be sustainable, it just takes time.”

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