It started for me 10 years ago. I happened upon Herbert Gold's Best Nightmare on Earth. As I read the book I was appalled at what had been done to Haiti. But I was also intrigued with the spirit that Gold portrayed. I wanted to go there.
The years passed. I moved to Oregon. Then one day in Meeting I noticed a poster about Haiti on the wall. I turned to a Friend and told him I had always wanted to visit Haiti. "You can," he replied, and handed me a brochure saying that I could spend 10 days in Haiti if I raised $5,000. I knew I could get away the 10 days. And never having been a fundraiser, $5,000 seemed like an easily obtainable goal.
I pondered the brochure for a week. I went to friends and asked what they thought. They all supported me. So, I filled out the application and received notice that I was officially a fundraiser. Armed with naivete, I started asking my family for donations. This was my first reality check. They didn't want to give. So after sufficiently licking my wounds, I went back and told them this time there were no options--they were going to support my endeavor! Once they closed their stunned mouths, they wrote the checks.
I was learning to be more assertive in my fund raising. But understanding of why I was doing the project came for me at Quarterly Meeting when a woman came up to me after a presentation and said, "I can't afford to give anything now, but I will hold the Haitians in the Light." Up to that point, all my efforts had been towards how much money I could raise. After that, my efforts were primarily directed towards educating people to become aware of the situation there and secondarily towards attaining my monetary goal.
On October 31, 1997 Lou Enge and I arrived arrived in Miami to meet with the AFSC Fundraiser's Tour of Haiti Group. This group consisted of three AFSC workers and ten volunteer fund raisers who had been working to collect money for a health clinic and emergency medical boat for the rural community of Les Irois in Haiti. The goal had been $5,000 per fund raiser, which meant $20,000 for the building, $20,000 for the boat, and $10,000 for the trip. The purpose of the trip was to learn about Haiti, to be present for the dedication of the clinic, and to be inspired to continue fund raising for Haiti after the trip.
The group consisted of the AFSC Associated Director of the Latin American, Caribbean desk, the AFSC Fundraiser from the North Central States, five people from Colorado, three of whom were medical doctors, two psychologists, one from Chicago and the other from Boston, a Frenchman presently living in California, and an AFSC volunteer worker from New Jersey. Of the thirteen of us, five of us were Quakers.
We spent that first night together dealing with logistics, expectations, and acquainting ourselves with each other. We would manage well in the coming days because of the good planning and the group's ability to flow with whatever happened, and a lot of unexpected things happened....
On November lst wee flew into Port-au-Prince where we were greeted by Gerald Jean-Francoise, the director of AFSVC in Haiti. He was our guide, interpreter, driver, and friend throughout the trip. His ability to deal with the traffic while explaining Haiti in an overcrowded van with underinflated tires was impressive.
The most memorable site in Port-au-Prince was the slum. There was not a single person in the group that was not sobered by the sight of poverty, sewage, and overcrowding that existed there. Everything was gray. The only vegetation consisted of oranges, beautifully arranged to sell. The sights were overwhelmed by the odors of sewage, charcoal smoke, burning tires, and food cooking,
After several days touring Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas and hearing from different groups and people about the politics of Haiti, we took a charter flight to the rural area in the Grand Anse, the southwestern part of Haiti. We were greeted in Dame Marie, the village that houses the AFSC office in the Grand Anse Region, by Pastor Richie Andris, former AFSC director. He showed us the school that he presently directs. It is the size of an average American elementary school, but it houses 1700 students by having two shifts a day in overcrowded classrooms. There are very few books. There is virtually no paper or pencils.
While in Dame Marie we visited some of the base groups that AFSC has helped to form. In these groups people come together to discuss their problems and possible solutions. AFSC philosophy