For the past few years, I have been focused on listening to what it is Haiti really needs. I’ve studied the multitude of problems and listened to the endless solutions. I’ve come to see that no single business plan or organization is going to suffice in pursuit of raising the quality of life and spreading the Gospel throughout the country. This all began from a week long trip I took to Haiti when I was fourteen years old. Lately, I’ve heard and seen a lot of people discussing the futility of short-term service trips in unforgiving confidence. Naturally, I have a lot of thoughts about this, but I will be keeping this one restrained as to prevent from ranting.
Let me start by saying that a lot of these issues pointed out about short term trips are true: The romanticism displayed on social media after a high schooler comes back from a week taking selfies with skinny children, the hardness that grows over the locals as promise after promise is made and then broken, the devastation that is left after some of these American agendas are impressed and not followed up on, I could go on. In fact, Mission Kite String operates how it does in part as a reaction to these issues, and we are working to soften the blow. We are all about empowering the Haitians themselves to head up solutions, while we are in place as no more than support.
Particularly what made me sit down and write this out was an article listing seven reasons short term trips are useless. I am not going to make a seven point list about why short term trips aren’t useless, though I probably could if I really wanted to stir the pot. In truth, the reasons listed in the article were valid and all were planted in truth, even if I could respond to each point with a ‘yeah, but…’
As far as the Haitian people go, they see teams come and go and it doesn’t appear that a ton has changed. Maybe one of the houses in their community has a new floor, but they could have just hired a Haitian to do that. Maybe a roof was put on a school, but that could have been done by the contractor down the street. The kids in the area were able to attend a VBS for three days where they sang songs and made bracelets, but the next week they would be just as hungry as before.
I’m trying to tiptoe and make everyone happy, but I just need to say what I want to say. Short term trips change lives, even if those lives are American volunteers rather than kids. Time after time, I see teams come to Haiti wanting to spend their spring break feeding starving children in Haiti, and instead those starving children derail the lives of those volunteers and forever change the way they see everyday life. I’m one of those volunteers, it happened to me when I was fourteen, and it still happens to me today. In fact, all of the missionaries and organizations I know in Haiti began with a week long trip.
So, the idea is that Americans come down for a week with the intention of doing something great, of fixing Haiti. Some organizations prove that point and lead churches and the individuals to believe that one week will change the course of Haiti’s future. What if, instead it was that in one week, Haiti was able to change your life forever. Maybe this nation full of physical poverty has something to teach you more than a spring break trip to Cabo ever could. And maybe in that way, short term trips aren’t useless at all.