Thursday, September 1, 2011

How the "aid" can and is actually hurting us

I know this particular statement I am about to make will be very controversial and believe me I wish I had another way to put it but, all I am asking my readers, is to make sure you read the whole text not a snippet of it in order to fully understand what I mean but then again you do not have to agree with me and I will humbly accept your critics, disagreement or if you want to add something more to what I wrote. All you have to do is hit the comment button so that everyone can read what you think.

Unless you have been living under the rocks, you are aware of the terrible earthquake disaster which occurred in Haiti on January 12, 2010 and the whole world was watching live days after days as the Haitian people is trying to go through rumbles with their bare hands to save their loved ones and also how the world responded pretty fast with their financial support and many organizations and individuals went there to help. It was very humbling to see the outpouring of support we got and are still getting till this day. For this I say thank you to all of you, who in a way or the other help Haiti, prayed for us or just mourned with us. We are forever grateful to you!
Of course, the very first 3-4 months is to be considered as emergency where people needed the basics be handed to them such as water, food, clothes, money etc…  Unfortunately this has not stopped.

Now, I am not an expert in anything I just happen to be fascinated by the way things are going since I myself had the opportunity to go and help as well and in case you are wondering I am also from Haiti and yes I was raised in an orphanage, a NGO (Non-governmental Organization) you will very soon see why I state that upfront.

I do think there is a big problem with the way aid is being administered in Haiti. First of all since we have very poor infrastructures, we have way too many NGOs in Haiti that are not even controlled by anyone. They basically do what they want to do. A lot of them are just seasonal they come for a week or a month just to make a name for themselves or to say they have been Haiti. We do not have enough roads and there are way too many cars in Haiti. I have observed myself so many rental cars in the street of Haiti.

Here is a paragraph by Kevin Edmonds a NACLA Research Associate in an article entitled: NGOs and the Business of Poverty in Haiti published on Apr 5 2010:

Haiti has the most privatized social-service sector in the Americas, with some 80% of the country’s basic services provided by the private sector through non-governmental organizations (NGOs). No other country in the world has more NGOs per capita. Edmond Mulet, head of the UN mission in Haiti, conservatively estimates that there were more than 10,000 before the January 12 earthquake. Many Haitians ironically refer to their country as a “republic of NGOs.”  (source

Of course I would say with no way to prove it, that this is close to double after the earthquake. With all these people in country, I do think that resources are diverted instead of going straight to the Haitian people the intended target. Instead we have more traffic jams, more pollution in the air and many people just enjoying the beach instead of being productive and others just making money for themselves. Please understand that that there are many good NGOs in Haiti that are doing the right things and which have been around for years and let me explain that not all new NGOs are bad or ill-intentioned but the many of them are of no use to the Haitian people at all.

Why do I say that? Suppose an organization brings 50 people from abroad to come work in Haiti to build something, this is wonderful right? Wrong! How about this same organization instead of spending this money to pay airlines and hotels and car rentals and meals etc… for these 50 people, brings in 10 of them and then hire locals to train them on what they are doing? Wouldn’t that be more beneficial for the country? Wouldn’t it help more in term of the people being trained having more pride and knowing something for life?

You will never help Haiti if you do not help the people help themselves. If you are not helping people help themselves you are just destroying the country for the future. For, the 50 people you brought in after the job is complete and the money is spent whether well done or not will return back to their country and since no one was trained, they will have to be called back if there is a problem and the money spent to pay them could have been used to help the nation.

"Teach us how to fish! do not give hand it to us". If you want to build a house bring in one or two experts and train the locals, there are many good engineers in Haiti who can be trained and also have the people for which the houses are being built be a major part of the labor so that their understand what it takes to build a house, they know they have invested in it and they will be more likely to keep up with it and moreover you give them a sense of pride.

I think that a lot of organizations are setting the Haitian people to be "professional beggars" deprived of all their pride. This is going to kill our self-esteem in the long run! Haiti does not need things to be handed to her. Haitians need work, do not just give things away. We have our pride and though we are in need we would rather work to deserve what we have. Don’t give them rice but rather teach or to be more efficient in cultivating the land, give them the equipment and train them on how to take care of it, so that if it is broken you do not have to come from abroad to repair it but they will be able to do it themselves.

There are many ways this can be accomplished. Instead of giving them money how about you teach them how to save what they have or invest it in macro enterprise, don’t just hang them money, loan them and let them invest it in a small business and reward those who do good with a low interest rate. Don’t just bring in your tractors, your engineers and your own people and do the job and leave. Teach the locals how to maintain them and how to build them rather help with the equipment because the manpower is already available.

As I previously said , I am very thankful for all the help we are getting but an aid which is not efficient is worthless and if an organization really wants to help it should invest in local people instead of bringing in seasonal foreigners. This is not help the Haitian people this is not helping the economy. I do not want to name any organization whether on the good side or the bad sides but you guys have an idea by now on how to distinguish a good one from a bad one.

I have more to say about this subject but I do not want you to get too tired of me. If there is need to add more I will do so either in a comment or a new post. 

Ask yourself this question: what is a country with its people with no sense of pride? What will become of a country if all of its citizens are just receiving from others? If you want to help, make sure that you are helping people help themselves rather than just waiting for a handover. 

Haitians are very proud people and they are very resilient. Let me make sure to conclude also that as Haitian, there is no way we can progress even when all the world pour in billions of dollars in Haiti unless we ourselves decide to change our own country. Let us work together toward a better country and let us stop hating each other, killing each other but rather work hand in hand as our national motto clearly states: L'union fait la force (Unity brings power). Let's be appreciative to those who are helping us and remember that if we do not help ourselves their help will for ever be worthless 

Be blessed and may God bless Haiti and all of those who are helping us help ourselves.  


  1. Sam, after experiencing Haiti with a couple different groups, I think you hit the nail on the head. I was talking to a translator friend of mine just last month about how there isn't a lot of pride among the people of Haiti, according to him. I can't help but wonder if we(western NGO's)are not partly repsonsible for that. As you stated, we do need to do a better job of helping Haitians help themselves. Good blog.

  2. Thanks Ryan for taking the time to comment. The problem actually is on both sides. The donors (NGOs)have to do a better jobs as well as the beneficiaries (the Haitian people).

    I am so glad you like the blog and you are welcome to comment on any other subjects that you would like.

  3. Sam, thank you for your blog. Being an organization that has been serving in Haiti since 2006, not as long as most, but long enough to have learn some things I agree with a lot of what you stated.

    I will try my best not to get side tracked. Although there are so many more issues involved with the state of Haiti than just what you mentioned here, I will stick to NGO's becuase I agree with you on a large portion of it and it's what I am involved in.

    Since my first trip to Haiti in 2006, I was amazed at the statement that there are over 10,000 NGOs in Haiti. It took me a couple years to put my arms around that (I'm pretty slow).

    I could not get over the fact that there were so many organizations in Haiti that were supposed to be there to help, but nothing was really getting accomplished. Yes, many NGO's are having success within the area's they are serving, but why isn't it traveling all over the country?

    I believe the NGOs are defragmented and prideful to be plain and simple. Every organization is doing what they want to do becuase they believe they can do it better, or their idea is better than the other NGO.

    Let me try and explain it this way. Here in the united states for years, especially in Florida they have been trying to pass Tort Reform (how to stop frivolous lawsuits). They had what they needed to do it, but every session the Manuaftures said they wanted product liability worked on, the retailers said they wanted premise liability passed, etc...etc..

    They were not united, and becuase of that no one could come up with something to help change the problem. It wasn't until they realized if all the lobbying organizations for all the different sections of business came together with unified voice and went after each issue one at a time that they eventually got common sense reform passed.

    I believe it is the same thing in Haiti. 10,000 NGOs working independently thinking what they are doing or their needs is best.

    It is my opinion that Haiti does need to classify or document the NGO's and what they are doing. It get's to the point of the Definition of insanity after a while, "Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results."

    If not Haiti, An organization should be established to unite all NGOs and with that have catagories for which an NGO falls under, so their is some accountability and information as to what is being done throughout Haiti.

    As to you statements about giving. Many of individiauls and countries have been ruined on the back of good intentions. Giving can get to the point of actually hurting those you intend to help. I agree with you there.

    I do not see any problem with giving, as long as it is done wisely and in a manner that is teaching people to give wisely. We will always need to give, even as we teach people to be independent. It is all in how we give.

    Our organization gives a lot, but we also expect a lot. When we go in to help build a church, or a school, or anything else we do not build it for them, we build it with them. Training and teaching as we go. We want them to be able to do everything we have done after we are gone.

    Another personal opinion of mine, is that I have found that most Haitian people to be perfectly capable fo doing a lot for themselves. They are some of the most resourceful and hard working people I have ever met. The problem is that NGO's and other governments, have made them dependent of the organizations coming in. For a long time they would expect us to just show up and give and build. That is not their fault, and I have seen a monumental change in that way of thinking since I started coming to Haiti.

    Yes, there are organizations that are using these issues and the devastation of Haiti as a money making opportunity, but I believe that the good ones with a heart for Haiti greatly out number the bad.

    For His glory alone,

    Greg Shepherd

    1. Thanks for your comment and yes you are so right!

  4. Great article, Sam. I agree with what you and others have said. Haiti will over come and many of the organizations who are in Haiti are there to make themselves feel better and more important. I'm involved with Healing Hands for Haiti Foundation ( and their goal, from the beginning, is to help the handicapped in Haiti through treatment, but we also have a school to train Haitians to be care providers and these students have found jobs in Haiti helping others with physical rehab needs. We've been in Haiti since 1998, so we're not one of those new groups since the earthquake. We have recognized through the years that there are better ways to do things. For example, we started a program several years ago to figure out how to make prosthetics and other rehab supplies through local materials rather than having them donated and shipped to Haiti. We're all learning. Hopefully we'll keep your goals in mind, and make Haiti stronger, and less dependant on foreign resources and aid. Let's get Haiti producing again and hopefully it will once again become the Perle des Antilles!

    Kimbe firm monsher! Great insight!


  5. thanks @a wretch like me for you comment. thanks for helping Haiti and better yet thanks for loving Haiti. You are doing an awesome job!

  6. I like that MRaymus the country needs to have things being produced locally, less money and more jobs for the local, more skills for them, more pride and more productivity and therefore a big boost to our economy. Thanks for your work and keep it up!

  7. Sam, You're doing a wonderful job, hopefully this blog can help many to think better about the problems of this country. I understand that your position is to love a country that is deteriorating every day more and more, but the reward of your thoughts, your reflections, someday, yes someday, you will have it. Keep it on. Good Blog


  8. All my compliments for this beautiful have done an anormous job. In this text you kissed the whole problem and I agree completely.Most NGOs took advantage of the weakness of the state and the absence of regulatory institution to settle in Haiti and make a name. And,most often in the same locality and at the same place there are several NGOs working in the same field of activity. Yet nothings is done because there is a kind of complicity between them. Many are made between them for poor countries, they are there to make money laundering. and,it should be noted that nearly almost all of the money comes from Haiti through NGOs is also to be repatriated to the donor or the country or just via the NGO staff, monitoring and workshops. NGOs are created, mostly in order to escape their right to tax under the pretext of providing humanitarian aid to poor countries. Far above, on the contrary they are real sources of wealth for their founders and members.We must also say that the majority of NGOs in Haiti have no legal recognition of operation, they operate under the basic of a deal with an official of the ministry of planning

  9. thanks for your comment. I am so please I can play a part in exposing the problem that too many don't talk about! I am thankful for all the help and I pray that I am wrong and that all these organizations in Haiti are working for the good of the Haitian people.

  10. Sam to honest with you I had the same reflexion the last time I went there. But the worst part of the history is when the actual government try to convert the hole country or his gorvenment as a big NGO, but stealing money directly in diapora poket for education, instead of thinking about the to create jobs for Haitian parents so they can take care of themselves.

  11. I do not know much about NGO's. I think you are correct in that to feed people is necessary sometimes but teaching then to feed themselves is vital to their future. The same is being done in the U.S. with welfare programs. And now that the economy has turned sour people who have been dependent on welfare are being cut off. I know that the times I have been in PauP I sawn a lot of white vehicles full of people doing nothing. The Haitian people seem to me to have a mindset that says get all I can now without thought of tomorrow. This of course is not limited to Haitians. But when supplies and equipment are being held up for profit at the expense of ones who need it; there has to be a change of attitude to one of unity. I think most people agree with what you say, but the question to me is, "What can I do?" I have personally thought that I would love to produce agriculture in Haiti so that everyone would benefit. But how?

  12. I too agree with what you wrote. Help is not always helpful if it is not done with purpose. A beautiful thing would be to see the Haitians move foward independant of aide.

  13. Good blog Sam. This is the premise of the book "When Helping Hurts" I do think that many many of the NGOs in Haiti are doing good and valuable work. I'm not personally familiar with any who are very wealthy or keeping all the money they raise for themselves, as one poster said. I also don't necessarily agree with regulation of NGOs as they are charitable in nature and I think government involvement in anything makes it more complex. However, I do totally agree that except in rare cases, straight up charity is not what's needed. Job creation and self sustainment is needed; yet those ideals are
    Much less easy to achieve than passing out a bag of rice.

    I don't say that to detract from anyone. Because when I go to Haiti--I also give charity aid. Very complex problem!!!!

  14. Read Travesty in Haiti; which I haven't. I go to Haiti to help, I pay cab driver way inflated price to get to a hotel that costs $100 a night, I pay $100-$150 a day for a driver, NGO people get another $100 a day per diem. It doesn't leave much to put into help for Haitian people except for ones taking advantage. It seems difficult to help Haitian people when the ones that have anything to offer keep it for themselves. I am believer in law of reciprocation. I have feeling that many in Haiti want someone to do it and leave. I am sure I am wrong about many; I am generalizing. Everyone needs to do their part. Help the children; can't go wrong if you know that help is not being bled off. We know that is going on. Orphanages keep children undernourished for marketing purposes,etc. But I will never forget a man I saw for a split second in downtown PauP two weeks after the quake. He was setting in a room with all the devastation around him. He had his shirt off and was glistening with sweat. He was working at a sewing machine.

  15. Samual, What a wonderful blog! Thanks so much for sharing this link. I really like your article and I love what you are doing. Most people don't take the time to think about it. They send aid and feel good about themselves because they helped. This is a real eye opener. Keep up the good work and may God bless you abundently!

    Your friend, Sylvia

  16. Thanks Sylvia and please share the word about the blog.

  17. Just wanted to let you know you are right on the mark. I say this with a heavy heart as I am one who has a non-profit that has been working in Haiti for many years. I used to only take mission teams down 1-2 times a year but started going every month or so after the earthquake. One of our directors works for a college and has spent the past year or so working on research on this situation and the concept of sustainability. We have changed the way we do things ourselves but like you mentioned, it's difficult to connect with other NGOs either because they choose to be independent of everyone else (don't want to share their work/statistics/glory) or there is just not enough communication as to who there is to team up with. Because we now see the things you do and are down there so much we have worked to do more to put the benefits in the hands of the Haitians and less on us. This is a difficult discussion for many but I think we all have room to grow and improve and if we have a heart for Haiti then there is always room to look into best options to help Haiti, instead of ourselves/our name, so that we have the greatest impact in the end.

  18. Sam - Excellent post. I agree wholeheartedly. It makes me think back to a PBS documentary I saw a few months back ... An organization had brought in portable latrines to one of the tent cities in Haiti but failed to make plans or hire anyone locally to maintain the latrines. Now they are unusable and create a health hazard ...

  19. Hi Sammuel,

    I read your blog as the link was posted to me. I am a firm believer of teaching a man to fish but then we need to go further and teach him how to manage his fishing. Yes, I have been to Haiti 3 times - working with an NGO during the Cholera outbreak and was privileged to work with some good Haitian nurses. As I was teaching them so they taught me about Haiti. We learned from each other and that's how it should be. Ali

  20. Sammuel, this is so well said. I know most people have pure intentions when offering aid, but in their ignorance, they are destroying the very thing that they wish to help. Haiti is a beautiful and proud country. We foriegners need to stop thinking we can ride in to the rescue. Supplying aid is one thing. Fostering dependence is another. Have you read the book, "When Helping Hurts" by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert? It addresses this problem.


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