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Haiti – The Martha’s Vineyard Connection

BY RICK | 10 March 2010

ProudHaitianVacationing on Martha’s Vineyard is my favorite way to get away from it all.  Sometimes, however, “it all” comes to haunt in a way that undermines any such attempt.  That has been the case since January 12, 2010.

The Vineyard is one of the most beautiful, luxurious, and comfortable vacation spots in the world.  At the other end of the affluence spectrum is the nation of Haiti, which occupies the western third of the island of Hispaniola.  Before January 12th, Haiti was already the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.  Since the earthquake of that date, its usual misery has increased beyond measure.

Take a look at some statistics: The average Haitian survives on about one dollar a day. In other words, the average Haitian would have to work a week to buy an ice cream at Mad Martha’s. They would have to work a year to afford one night’s stay at an upscale hotel.  However, since unemployment there is about 70-80%, the point is moot for most.  About 1 in 10 Haitian children will not reach their 5th birthday.  Most Haitians can’t read or write and only about 50% have sustained access to clean water. (Please note that these dreadful figures pre-date the earthquake, so things have only gotten worse.)

It’s hard to reconcile the differences between the two places, one so idyllic, the other so afflicted.  Perhaps it’s not possible to reconcile them, but it is always possible to work towards equity.  The people of Martha’s Vineyard have reached out.  Try Googling “martha’s vineyard haiti” to find several such initiatives.  You only have to look as far as the back door of the Colonial Inn to find Bluefish Coastal Boutique where they are donating 30% of all online sales until the end of April to Red Cross Haiti relief.

As a visitor to and supporter of Haiti for the past ten years, these efforts hearten me, even as the events there cause me distress.  In 2000, I traveled to Haiti for the first time.  What I saw changed my life forever in countless ways.  Since then, I have been back on several occasions, most recently this past November.   There are many people there that I love and want to help in any way I can. To make that happen, I serve on the board of a non-profit organization, Servants for Haiti, that supports a school and an orphanage in the earthquake ravaged capital of Port-au-Prince.

There can only be two viable and consistent responses to this disparity: gratitude and generosity.  Gratitude for all that we have been blessed with, and the generous sharing of those blessings with our destitute neighbors.

The first is easy and can (and should) be practiced constantly.  Next time you feel compelled to complain about slow service at an island eatery, consider my good friend Jonas, who does not know when he will eat next.  If you want to whine about waiting in traffic at Five Corners, think of David Andre who suffers migraines so excruciating that they cause him to pass out, but whose family cannot afford medical treatment.  I could go on and on (and on…) but you get the point.

The generosity response is almost as easy.  Many organizations exist to help those less fortunate.  The Red Cross, Partners in Health, and World Vision are among the most effective in the world at helping the poor and all are active in Haiti relief work.  (I would also commend to you the organization I serve. Learn more about us atwww.servantsforhaiti.org .)

Consider all that you have been given and respond appropriately.  Reach out to our Haitian friends and neighbors. Donate your time and your money and encourage others to do the same.  A just world is worth sacrificing for.

UPDATE: Since Rick submitted this post for us he has been involved in organising afundraiser for Servants of Haiti – one of the prizes is a weekend at the Edgartown Residence Club which Rick and his family are kindly donating.  2 of Rick’sadult children have recently returned from volunteering in the aftermath of the earthquake so please help them help others by getting involved in this or any of the other great fundraising efforts that many people are involved in both on Martha’s Vineyard and all over the world.