When I was growing up in Gonaives, Haiti, we didn’t have a toilet. We had a latrine, an outhouse in the back of our yard where we went to the bathroom. A literal “shithole.”
By Western standards of modernity, you could say the same of Haiti. Our roads aren’t great. Our politicians are corrupt. The late dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, a.k.a. Baby Doc, stole hundreds of millions. His wedding famously cost $2 million. That was a lot of money in 1980. Today, the average Haitian lives on less than $2 a day.
I’ve witnessed extreme acts of violence in Haiti. But I’ve also encountered the most decent people I’ve ever met. I’ve seen a busload of people work together to help a woman in labor give birth on the side of a road. I’ve seen entire villages care for children as if they were their collective parents.
Like every other place on Earth, Haiti is of mixed character. It’s a place of extremes.
When I was in high school, we had a program called Alphabetization. High school seniors would volunteer to teach how to read and write to illiterate elders from the community. I participated in it during my senior year and taught many elders the joys of reading and math. Some of them were octogenarians, yet still had the desire to learn.