The hub of Haïti’s reconstruction is taking place in the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince. However, two hours north of all of the action, out of sight and out of mind, lays a small remote village called Juampas. In this part of the island, newly built sprawling hotels won’t be found especially given that Juampas lacks paved roads or even running water. But it is here that Marline Olivier organises an annual mission trip for her Wings of Hope International foundation that supports a school and medical clinic. She’s been helping Haïti build back better since she established the mission nearly twenty years ago.

Olivier was born in Haïti and now lives on the east coast of the United States in Atlanta, Georgia. Even as a child growing up in Haïti, Olivier witnessed a genuine need. “There was a lack of concern for education and health care. I saw people die who didn’t need to,” recalled Olivier.

Eighty percent of the Haitian population lives below the poverty line, most of which are children who go to work to help pay for food rather than attend school. Things have improved somewhat over the years with the construction of more schools by the government, but these schools are often overcrowded. Olivier insists that the focus ought to be on giving these children a solid education and adequate health care, which her mission provides. “They are the hope and future of Haïti,” she said.

Another way to help build back a better Haïti is by actually making the trip to the country, which is just what Nadine Guerrier-Alvarez did. After accompanying Olivier on her mission last December, Alvarez remarked, “I went because I wanted to actually make a difference in helping Haïti versus just giving lip service.” Alvarez has contributed financially in the past, but felt that actually going was especially rewarding. “There is no doubt that there is a great need for more involvement by the Haitian diaspora to help the country rebuild. More can always be done,” explained Alvarez and further asserted that Haitians need to step up and contribute. She said that it is only by being there that one can see for oneself how things really are in Haïti and truly experience the country’s culture.

Both Olivier and Alvarez agree that building back a better Haïti entails progress in two areas: internally and externally, beginning with sound leadership. Since President Martelly’s entry into office four years ago, voting to install a government has been deferred three times. Protests throughout the country accusing Martelly of purposefully delaying elections in order to rule by decree, abound. An accusation he has continuously denounced. Elections have been once again re-scheduled for the 9th of August.

Olivier expresses the urgency to install a proper government more succinctly stating that unless it gets its act together, in spite of being constructed in the nation’s capital, it will feel as if the recently built Marriott hotel were built in a place as remote as Juampas.

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Myriam Breton Jones

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