Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Potential - Guest Post by Allie Rice

Allie and I on the bus when we first arrived in Haiti

Today’s post is written by my new friend Allie Rice.  I met Allie when our Haiti team was forming.  Each month I’d see her at our planning meetings, but we didn’t really bond until we spent a week together in Haiti.

Intelligent, entrepreneurial, and insightful, Allie runs her own (very successful!) web design business.  She is well-spoken and her melodic voice is mesmerizing.  I could listen to her talk all day.  Allie is an eloquent and very talented writer.  Learn more about her at

She summarized our last day in Haiti so well that I asked if I could repost her thoughts on my blog.  Enjoy!

Potential - by Allie Rice

The last day we were in Haiti, we took a trip to the beach. I don’t know about you, but when I’m in a developing country, I’m skeptical about the beach. I pictured a beach-ified version of what we’d been looking at for the last week: rubble, trash, deforestation, devastation. Just add some ocean waves and maybe a little sand.
They told us it would take about an hour and a half to get there from Carrefour, but that was no surprise. The traffic in Carrefour and Port-au-Prince is completely insane. Buses weaving through traffic as if they were sports coupes, passing with the narrowest of opportunities, vans and trucks with 30 people piled into them, bus-sized holes in the road, no traffic signs or road markings, throngs of people walking every which way. It could easily take an hour just to get all the way across town.
And that’s how it started, with a trip through the crowded streets, navigating the infrastructure that can’t possibly support the population of residents and vehicles. On the other side of Port-au-Prince, we turned onto a wide dirt road. Immediately, things started to change. There were fewer vehicles, less rubble, only a few pockets of potholes here and there. Then we reached the end of the dirt road and took a left.
Suddenly we were on a smooth, paved road. A road with a double yellow line down the middle. A few minutes later, we came into a small town, and there were beautiful homes with ornamental archways surrounded by lush vegetation. Some of the homes had clearly sustained some damage in the earthquake, but nearly all of them had cleared the rubble and already started rebuilding. There were only a few tents scattered here and there; even the simplest homes had basic walls and tin roofs. And then we saw the ocean.

From that moment on, we were in the Caribbean. Of course, we were in Caribbean all along, but we were in the Caribbean that you picture in your mind. It was suddenly so easy to understand why France sold the Louisiana Purchase to the United States to fund their fight to keep Haiti from revolting.
We spent our afternoon at a Haitian beach club, sitting on chaise lounges, picking up seashells, jumping off the pier into the warm ocean. It was surreal. We were all asking the same question: How can I reconcile this with what I’ve seen for the past seven days?
Only one word seemed applicable: potential.
As we drove around this part of the island, we had a glimpse into what pre-earthquake Haiti might’ve been like. Obviously, Port-au-Prince and Carrefour are more populous than other parts of the island, and that’s a factor; the deforestation in particular is a longstanding problem in much of Haiti. But Carrefour is only a few miles from the epicenter of the earthquake. One has to wonder what it was like before January 12, 2010.
One has to wonder what it could be again.
Our translator — who grew up in Oakland, California and moved to Haiti six years ago — told us that, in America, we only hear about the bad in Haiti when, in truth, there’s so much good there. The people I met in Haiti — the women leaders I spent three days with — were a testament to the good: they have incredible hope, resilient faith, and an unshakable commitment to their communities. These are women who are changing lives, every single day. I hope I have the opportunity to go back to Haiti in 10, 20, 30 years and see the evidence of those lives changed. Of life changed.
“The Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.” (Isaiah 61)

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