Haiti Needs Best Friends
Haiti Needs Best Friends
By Martha Randolph Carr
There is an interesting dichotomy that has formed on our national political landscape. Recent policy has clearly defined what it takes for the U.S. to become best friends forever with a small, troubled country, or instead, to shove it in the nearest locker where we won't have to think about it anymore.
The choice for best friend forever is Iraq, obvious because of how far we were willing to reach to justify what we had already decided we wanted to do and how stubbornly we are hanging in the fight. Our friendship though, hasn't worked out very well. We continue to expend with no possible idea of when it might pay off, or at least humanely stop.
However, just a short 700 miles off the coast of Miami, and not far from Cuba, is the small enclave of Haiti, the clear winner for the country who can not sit at our lunch table. It's only a short boat ride away as proven by so many Haitians who have attempted to flee their country for the U.S. in the shakiest of seafaring crafts. So close, that in 2004, the U.S. tried to set an example and sent back 531 people in one large repatriation, trying to stop the flow without offering any effective help. That was the same year their elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide was overthrown by gangs trained by the U.S. for a more humanitarian reason. It just didn't work out how we had hoped.
Conditions in Haiti are so rife with corruption, random violence and complete lack of infrastructure that even humanitarian groups have largely stayed away -- with at least one notable exception, made more notable by their savior's background prior to taking up the cause.
Into the fray has stepped, Susie Scott Krabacher an engaging, small, 43 year old blonde American who left school and home at 15 and, until her work in Haiti, was probably best known as a Playboy centerfold. But what she lacked in experience or money she made up for in courage or at least a lack of fear about how many different ways she could die just being in the country. Perhaps that's what this job required. Krabacher, who founded the non-profit organization, Mercy and Sharing, has recently chronicled her efforts to make an inroad into Haiti in her new book, Angels of a Lower Flight (Touchstone) and her efforts to help particularly Haiti's handicapped children.
Even with the repeated attempts made on her life, like when a sawed-off shotgun was held to her stomach, Krabacher has established three schools, a hospital, a community medical center with over 12,000 patients seen every month, two major nutrition centers which feed over 1,300 people every day and an orphanage for handicapped and terminally ill children. Recently, Krabacher managed to convince the activist Patch Adams to accompany her on a trip to Haiti to entertain the children in the orphanage.
Something worth noting is that without Mercy and Sharing's orphanage, Haitian culture usually dictates ending the life of a child with any kind of defect or serious illness. Krabacher specifically works to find and save those children.
All of her work is accomplished without U.S. forces or our government funds and in spite of odds and setbacks that keep usually hardy people from ever trying. And yet, our public policy toward our neighbor Haiti which has nothing obvious any more to offer our economy, unlike oil-rich Iraq, is most notable for its lack of any kind of description. We don't say we won't help as much as we just don't say anything.
However, public policy can be changed and new friendships formed when enough people become interested in what's happening just beyond their own border. And, fortunately, Krabacher has already shown that at least this time, a lot can be accomplished with far less loss of American lives that will benefit thousands of impoverished children. Maybe it doesn't always have to be just about us.
Martha Carr is a popular newspaper and magazine columnist as well as book author. A 1982 graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and the 1990 first place winner of the Virginia Press Award, she is a descendant of Thomas Jefferson, and along with her cousin, best selling author, Lucian K. Truscott IV, has worked to recognize all of the Jefferson descendants.
A Place to Call Home: The Amazing Success Story of Modern Orphanages (Prometheus)."...Carr's book should touch hearts and open discussions."- Publishers Weekly.For more info about Martha and her books go to www.martharandolphcarr.com.
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