Tuesday, June 12, 2012

One Table Many Partners

First blog post! Wee!
At the beginning of June, Catholic Relief Services hosted a national conference, One Table Many Partners, that brought together Haitians and Americans from development organizations, church groups, and average people like me who all want to help Haiti move forward. I attended the conference with Sr. Rita and other Religious of Jesus and Mary (RJM) who help run the Quest volunteer program in Gros Morne.

At the conference!

Christie Newman, a former Quest volunteer, presenting on "Hens for Haiti."
                                                                       Check it out ^^

Since the 2010 earthquake there has been a massive amount of people going to Haiti with the intentions of helping, but because there is not a lot of communication or organization, often times people are just creating dependency instead of working towards sustainability. Too often people who are going to help Haiti end up creating more harm than good. And so this conference (while I got to learn about grassroots microfinance projects and some really awesome local human rights and citizenship organizations) mostly impacted me to reflect on why I am choosing to go to Haiti. 

For example, the Haitians don't need us. No one in Gros Morne needs me! Haiti managed to have the first and only successful slave revolution in the history of the world. Yeah - they really don't need us. (Obviously a successful revolution hundreds of years ago isn't a good measure of development now - but I'm trying to make a point!) 

We choose to go and often times we act like the superiors and make them the inferiors, even in their own country. In EIU's Haiti Connection, we always strived to create relationships with the people we were working with and it makes everything so much better. Because that's the point! Relationships! 

I am choosing to go to learn and to grow - because I think it will help me become the person I want to be. And hopefully I can meet, get to know, and work with Haitians in Gros Morne offering any of my resources they may want. I do hope I can do some meaningful work and have some sort of positive impact, but if I skip over the being with part, then everything else is useless. 

My favorite workshop was put on by Julie Lupien, who is actually a Distinguished Alumni from EIU! She works at Mission to Mission, and really challenged everyone in her workshop to reevaluate their mission work. Here are some things she presented: 

"Is it enough that we are good people doing good things? We are not called to be saviors. We already have one of those."

"How does it feel to be on the receiving end?"

"Who you are is more important than what you do. 'Mission' is saying 'nothing is more important to me than you.'"

"We go to be with them, not to solve all their problems."

"Knowing each other, caring for each other, and getting to know each other is what truly changes the world."

"Mission is a lifestyle - not something you do when you go somewhere else, but something you do every day. And to do this every day is a struggle."

"We ALWAYS are guests, no matter how long we go."

Perhaps all these thoughts are obvious, but I just think human nature makes it very easy for us to warp the real reasons of service and mission and it's healthy to take a quick step back and find the heart of why we do what we do! We are supposed to walk with, not solve for. We are supposed to ask what we can do, not tell them what to do. And we are supposed to learn from them and work to change ourselves.

Last night: cookout at the Religious of Jesus and Mary house with three priests from Haiti!

And I will leave you with two thoughts that left the strongest impression on me, and the two I want to remember each day in Haiti:

"No man is a problem. If we see people as problems, then we seek solutions - even final solutions. We can change Haiti if we remember that the best resource we have is the Haitian people themselves."

"We must beg forgiveness from the poor for the bread we give them."