Haiti: Trust is Hard to Find, Fear is Everywhere

Wendy Goodman lives in Greenfield, MA and just returned from Haiti, where she opened a community arts center in 2003. She explained the difficulties of trying to make progress in a country such as Haiti, where mistrust of outsiders and strict class boundries are so sharp. She was interviewed in the Recorder this morning.

“When you’re born into Haiti as one of the populace, you’re essentially born into a prison,” she said, explaining that politics and corruption keep almost anyone who tries to leave from getting a visa. “The psychology is that there’s no opportunity.”

In Haitian society, “you dare not do someone else’s work for fear you’re trying to take that person’s job. It’s beyond a work ethic of ‘how you survive?’ In a culture with that kind of need, to build something cooperatively where someone will step in and fill the need is not where they are.”

Even Haitian natives who return from the US to help their country are distrusted and struggle with the inner question of what’s a fair wage to pay their countrymen. Goodman was exasperated by the feeling of not being trusted in spite of outward friendliness–trust is a privilege–and that saddened her. She watched her god daughter go to school and was devasted, since Haitian schools destroy rather than foster creativity…”it’s trained in school, you get hit for asking a question.”