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7434: Groups going to Haiti: Corbett responds


I think the trips are a good thing.  I first went to Haiti in exactly such
a frame of mind, though not on a group trip.  Then, in the coming years I
ran such trips and took more than 500 people to Haiti to do exactly those
sorts of things.  Many of those people did their thing, had their
experience and moved on, never to really have much lasting interest in

A small, but significant number of others became more interested in Haiti
and grew in their sophistication and interest.  We all must begin
somewhere.  What motivates us to try anything?

When I took groups to Haiti we operated on a shoe string budget and we
normally went from St. Louis back to St. Louis, three weeks in Haiti for
under $1000.  I recall a farmer from Nebraska writing to me that this
$1000 could be used for much more important purposes.  Oh my, I couldn't
have agreed more.  But over the years I ran my trips more than 500 forked
up that $1000 and went to Haiti.  Not one single person ever, not once,
gave my organization $1000 in lieu of going to use it "for better
purposes."  Over the years my organization has put several million
dollars into small economic developments in Haiti.  About 80% of
the money donated to my charity has come from those who went to Haiti
on one of those trips we billed as a service, experience trip.

Similarly, I'm sure you and others and I too, could make a list of dozens
of other ways to use the money and time invested in "better" causes by our
omniscient standards.    The issue is what would move people from
point A to point B.  That's not a question of utopian values, it's a
question of human psychology.  Most people have limited time and money and
will do those things that grab them, move them what not. I think most of 
us do not always choose to do that which has some rational optical
value.  I know I don't, and I'm utterly thrilled I don't.  

We can appeal toward ideals, and well we should.  But I am most hesitant
to criticize the choices people make that have a decent possibility of
moving them forward, and one could do a lot worse that responding in
sympathy toward the needs of others.

I could never lead such a trip now.  It has nothing to do with whether the
people could do better with their time and money, that judgment is about
me and where I am.  But I am most happy there are others out there,
perhaps not as cynical as I, or not so all-knowing of the ideal good that
they can descend to this low level of activity.  I wish the groups well; I
wish the leaders well.  I loved those days when I could do that.  I'm not
sorry I can no longer do it; I've moved on. (I also suffered the trauma
of having two people killed on one of our trips.)  It's a good
thing for me that I can't do that and have moved to other works.  But I
for one would not pass a negative judgment on such groups.  I even believe
firmly that in the long run Haiti profits in every way from those who move
out of those initial exposure groups and grow in sophistication,
knowledge, commitment and love to become long-term friends and allies of
the Haitian people.

Bob Corbett