Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hints of Haiti

Yesterday, I got the opportunity to meet Dr. Paul Farmer and to hear him speak. My roommate, Jill, and I volunteered this weekend at a poverty conference at MIT where he was one of the keynote speakers. When I pulled up on my bicycle, he was outside with a few of the organizers. He saw the Haitian bandanna that I was wearing on my head and we ended up talking for a few minutes about Haiti and the current desperation there. He has a handshake that kills! His speech was very interesting, with a focus on the work Partners in Health is doing in Rwanda. He mentioned several times how important it is to collaborate with the local governments so that services that NGOs want to provide become considered rights instead of commodities. After the talk, he stayed for about an hour to meet with conference attendees and to answer personal questions. I was the only staff person present at that point, so I ended up being the one directing him and literally moving him around so that everyone got their questions answered. It was a pleasant morning. Even if he hadn't said anything of interest, it would have been worth it just so that I can tell people "Yes," when they ask me if I've met Paul Farmer, which is always the first question they ask when I say I work in Haiti.

In the evening, I was flipping through channels and I came across the Spanish channel. I had forgotten that on the weekends, the Spanish channel becomes the Haitian channel. Last night, it was showing news from the rioting last week. I got to watch Preval's speech in which he ordered the rioters to stop and I got to see the footage of the senate's vote to remove the Prime Minister from power. Anne Auguste, aka So Anne, a Lavalas leader who was arrested in 2004 because of her involvement with Aristide and because of accusations of voodoo, perhaps even human sacrifice, also gave a televised call for peaceful protesting. The program showed an interview from the head of internal security who was adamantly proclaiming that the police would use violence if the rioters continued to be violent. It ended with interviews from citizens of Carrefour. Apparently, none of the rioting in Carrefour got violent, and these citizens were extremely proud.

I really wish I had remembered that channel last week when the rioting was going on. It would have been a good way to stay up to date on the events. Nothing is happening in Haiti right now, but people are still hungry. Aid has come in from the United Nations and from foreign countries including France and the US, but more will be needed to save the Haitian people. Keep praying!

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