08 Apr 2014 04:00
Since the 2010 earthquake, hundreds of religious American NGOs like "Healing Haiti", "Food for the Poor" and "Hope Alive!" have flocked to Haiti. In addition to their humanitarian activities, they organize volunteering tours for anyone who wants to help Haiti.
Every week, new teams of American volunteers land in the little country. They help distribute water in the slum of Cité Soleil - one of the most dangerous areas of the country. They visit orphanages and schools where they distribute chewing gum, and go to the beach with orphans. But in the end, most of their days will be consumed by taking photos with orphans and locals.
Jeff Gacek and Alyn Shannon founded Healing Haiti, a Christian NGO that organizes tours for volunteers. They have decided to dedicate themselves to the country in the name of God. "We didn’t choose Haiti ... God chose Haiti for us", they say.
According to the American Embassy in Haiti, approximately 200,000 American citizens land in Haiti each year. They feel invested with a divine mission where charity and religious proselytism mix. There is no State control and it is very easy for foreign organizations to create their own NGO and open churches, a schools or orphanages.
However, their legitimacy is questioned by bigger international NGOs such as MSF (Médecins sans Frontières - Doctors Without Borders), Acted and ACF (Action contre la Faim). According to them, these American NGOs are doing the contrary of humanitarian work by only doing charity. A French humanitarian working for an international NGO says: "at best, what they are doing is useless. At best ... ".
By doing the State’s jobs in healthcare, education, economy, housing and food, those NGOs disempower local authorities. They also take away jobs such as water distribution that could be given to local people. As a result, the Haitian State relies more and more on those organizations and disengages from its responsibilities.
Unfortunately, people trained by foreign NGOs tend to leave the country before the State is prepared to take over.
These American NGO’s are all evangelists. During the weekly trips on the island, they practice a non-official proselytism through masses, shared prayers and distributions of cartoons related to Jesus's life for the children. According to Haitian director Raoul Peck who made a documentary about this topic, this type of humanitarian work resembles a type of colonialism where white people are providers while Haitian people are receivers, which creates dependence between the two sides.
Trips are also a very important source of incomes for NGOs. Each aspiring humanitarian worker has to pay for his or her plane ticket and fees to the organization which vary between $700 to $1000 per week.