“… If true development is not by the people for the people, it will fail.” I must have heard this statement a thousand times over the years as Jack’s daughter. It was the premise, after all, of what brought my parents to Haiti 16 years ago and it was their faithful belief in that premise that has sustained them over the years. Moreover, it has become true to itself: sixteen years in Haiti and 50 years of marriage. Their trip to Haiti in November was a celebration of these things.
“Jack, you have been patient with us. We know that God may take you from us but we wish that you would live forever. We know that you will die but the seeds that you have planted here will never die.” Thus began our evening meal in Fon Batis. In a narrow room of long and narrow tables, uneven chairs, the glow of a single Coleman lantern, we gathered to share oversized bowls of rice and beans and chicken and tender, warm, humourous conversation with the presidents of the Fon Batis cooperatives.
“Look around you,” the president of Coopérative Victorieuse invites. “Look at this building you are in. It is a building that is only in progress. We must keep moving forward. I was surprised to know that the money that is coming here (through CIDA) is from the Canadian taxpayer. When I knew that, I decided to make whatever sacrifice to use this money in the right way. Even though Jack and Anne are getting older, they are learning another student to take over the job. I want to thank Canada, for today we are learning to read and write. The literacy program has been a miracle for us.”
And then the next president takes his turn and says, “I want to thank each of you for making the sacrifice to come over these mountains and share dinner with us tonight. We thought Fon Batis was abandoned in the world but we now know God had a plan for us. He has used FIDA to bring us people, good seed and now a literacy program. We know that we are being led in the real development way.:
We stand, hold hands, and then the men begin to sing softly, a hymn of a most beautiful melody.
Indeed, true development.
By the people. For the people.
by Betsy Wall