Saturday, January 30, 2010

Additional Thoughts on Haiti - Lest We Fall Victim to Compassion Fatigue

Over the past week, I have heard more than one person remark about "over-exposure" by the media to the still-unfolding tragedy in Haiti. I would like to offer a dissenting voice. The photograph that leads this article serves for me as a metaphor for how we, as Americans and the community of nations, are responding and must continue to respond to the needs in Haiti. The picture shows Dr. Warren Cooper, a Samaritan's Purse doctor serving at the mission hospital in Fermathe, taking his own blood to share with a patient in need. Senator Bill Frist, a medical doctor, has been performing surgery at this same hospital on the grounds of Haiti Baptist Mission. This is the hospital where I was privileged to work from 1974-1975.

In the rest of this Blog posting, I will offer several links for those who are not suffering from "compassion fatigue," and who want to dig deeper in understanding what is happening in Haiti today and what the needs will continue to be in the coming weeks, months and years

For other images and updates from the fine work being done at the Hospital in Fermathe, here is the link to the website for Haiti Baptist Mission.

Haiti Baptist Mission

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Last evening, I attended a fund raising event for Haiti organized by the MIT community. Among the speakers was Noam Chomsky. While I do not agree with many of his political positions, he spoke passionately and eloquently about the history of Haiti and the present need.

Dr. Dale Joachim, a Haitian-born scientist who is currently working at the renowned MIT Media Lab, spoke from is heart about the need to move beyond emergency relief to long-term, sustainable solutions for providing water, energy, habitation and other infrastructure. He announced several initiatives that the MIT community will undertake in the coming months to help in these critical areas of long-term need.

Members of the Media Lab are also working on projects to help with rebuilding Haiti. Recently, Dr. Joachim, a visiting scientist, led a “Haiti IAP Workshop” to discuss the current state of affairs in Haiti and to brainstorm innovations to benefit relief efforts. Joachim discussed using a network of XO laptops from One Laptop Per Child to relay video and voice messages from Haiti.

Around 40 laptops are being taken right now to be used for the relay of information, he said last week. An eWeek Europe article posted on the OLPC website said 14,000 XO laptops had been sent to Haiti prior to the quake, and OLPC has pledged to send more faster.

“In order for us to help recraft Haiti’s society, it’s important to understand the citizens’ needs and perspectives. The technology we are using is a quick way to surface the voices of the people,” said Joachim.

He also said that Haiti’s reconstruction would benefit from MIT projects involving energy efficiency. “In an academic environment such as MIT, people should use Haiti as a case study for how to rebuild the society in energy-efficient way.”

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Several people have asked me what I know about how churches in Haiti have been impacted. Phil McCardle, one of the leaders of the church that I attend, made available a link to a video he had recently seen. The video shows Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle reporting back to his congregation about 32 hours that he spent in Haiti figuring out how churches in the U.S. may best be able to reach out and help churches in Haiti. The video runs over an hour and may contain some theology you do not agree with, but it represents some of the clearest pictures I have seen of what it is like on the ground in Haiti right now.

32 Hours in Haiti

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Finally, Dr. Paul Farmer, Founder of Partners in Health, testified before Congress about the needs in Haiti. Dr. Farmer, based here in Boston, has encyclopedic knowledge of Haiti - from before and after the earthquake.

"I am at my core optimistic about the possibilities before us and the potential of our support to help rescue and transform our poorest neighbor," stated Paul in his submitted testimony. "The response from citizens of the United States to the recent events in Haiti has been overwhelming and encouraging. There is the promise of solidarity by our leadership to make long-term commitments to the kinds of investments needed in Haiti—and to fulfilling them."

"For two centuries, the Haitian people have struggled for basic human and economic rights, the right to health care, the right to education, the right to work, the right to dignity and independence,"he continued. "These goals, which Haitians share with people all over the world, should direct our policies of aid and rebuilding."

Partners in Health website

Please continue to pray for the people of Haiti and those from around the world who have been moved to extend a helping hand to them. And please give as you are able. And then, reminding yourself of Dr. Cooper in the picture above, give again . . . and again.

God bless.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Keep on posting such stories. I love to read articles like this. By the way add more pics :)