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#3544: A Wealth of Spirit in Haiti (fwd)
From: radman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"The average Haitian survives on less than 250 U.S. dollars a year. This
requires imagination every day. One percent of the population controls 45%
of the national wealth. There is no welfare. In Cite Soleil,
Port-au-Prince's largest slum, 400,000 people live in 2.5 square miles, in
perhaps the worst living conditions in the Western Hemisphere. When you go
there you have the impression that the people never sleep; there is
activity day and night. This is because there is not enough physical space
for every one to lie down at the same time. They sleep by turns. What
sustains these people?
"Consider this: Last year a one-month-old baby was found in a pile of
garbage by one of our teachers. Ants had eaten part of the child's hand.
The teacher, Rose, is a poor woman. She already has two children. Yet she
spontaneously adopted the baby, naming him Ti Moise (Little Moses). This
woman teaches that beyond market values there are human values. That no
child can be thrown away.
"How do these people survive? Why is suicide practically unheard of in
Haiti? To understand we must move beyond statistics. To see the richness
of the Haitian people we must examine cultural factors: wealth of humor,
warmth of character, ease of laughter, dignity, solidarity. We have
traditions in Haiti that allow us to share food when we can. We raise the
child of a friend or relative who cannot. We work together in a Konbit to
bring in a crop, or build a neighbor's house in exchange for a meal shared
at the end of the day. We can make one more place on a tap-tap [a covered
pick-up truck that serves as public transportation] that is already
impossibly full. The majority of Haitians survive in a vast informal
economy that remains beyond the statisticians, yet provides sustenance for
70% of the urban workforce. And then we still smile, and we still laugh.
In Haiti we are rich in these. There is a wealth of spirit here and from
it a third way emerges."
--From "Eyes of the Heart: Seeking a Path for the Poor in the Age of
Globalization," by Jean-Bertrand Aristide. http://www.eyesoftheheart.org
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