Encouraging the Community to Come TogetherJanuary 19, 2010
I’m sure we have all seen reports about the devastating earthquake that occurred in Haiti. I find myself glued to the television in horror. Many people at my college and in my community are trying to find the best way to support this cause. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 80 percent of the population living under the poverty line and 54 percent in abject poverty. The country is struggling on multiple fronts: enormous debt, poverty, political instability, and ongoing violence, in addition to four devastating tropical storms since 2008 that severely damaged the infrastructure and agricultural regions. The earthquake — the worst in 200 years — is revealing many of the social problems other countries have long ignored. This ailing country is searching for hope in the face of immense destruction.
Historically, Haitian women function as the story keepers of their families and community, sustaining the country’s heritage, history, and rich musical and artistic traditions. Women often act as strong pillars vividly chronicling the existence of their culture. Although Haitian women have traditionally worked in factories and in agriculture, shifts in the Haitian infrastructure and societal needs have caused women to try to join work sectors that are already filled to capacity. Women competing in this changing market have had difficulty finding the support they need. Some NGOs have stepped in to offer counseling, basic education, skills training, loans, health care, and leadership development to help them support their families and create change within their impoverished communities.
With the recent devastation, Haitian people are likely to experience yet another cultural evolution, challenging each individual to support the community and help rebuild the culture. I hope that Haitian women will be able to keep their country strong by encouraging the community to come together. By calling on their memories and stories of a resilient, powerful people prevailing in the face of catastrophe, women can bring recovery and peace into the hearts of a distraught community. I challenge every person on this blog to make a small donation; every donation can help bring a brighter future to Haiti and to the world.
Grace O’Shaughnessy is a member of the 2009–10 AAUW Student Advisory Council.