As I write this sitting on a plane headed for Santo Domingo, I’m looking out the window watching the shadow of our 737 skim over the brilliant green water of the Caribbean, and reading a USA today article titled, “Too Soon for Service Trips to Haiti, Colleges Told.”
I’m on my way to Haiti. But our 737 packed with spring break college students leaving the U.S. to serve will go as far as the D.R.. The dozens and dozens of students on our flight will never make it to Haiti because they, like so many others, are being fed lines like, “Too soon for Service Trips to Haiti.”
If today is too soon, then when will the day be right? What greater disaster must a nation suffer before the time is right? The article states that the C.I.D.I. (an ominous sounding acronym for the Center for International Disaster Information) is advising volunteers to “wait until conditions are better to serve... at least one year,” it suggests.
What tragic irony. How will conditions ever get any better until people go and help make it better?
The article implies that volunteers and college students will use “valuable resources” in Haiti that can be better used by someone else. That statement would be funny if it weren’t so sad. I’ll bet cash money the person who made this statement at the CIDI has never set foot in Haiti. Believe me, I’ve been there. Even in Port au Prince there’s enough bread and bananas and goat (yep, our last team had goat in Port au Prince) to feed college students.
This same kind of reasoning is what vexed me when buildings came crashing down in
January. It took five days of sitting and watching and assessing and evaluating before our government felt it was “safe” enough to allow earthquake rescue workers into Port au Prince to begin digging through the rubble for survivors. FIVE DAYS! I was sick. We should have had people there in five hours. Literally.
Sean Penn is a stud. He’s in Haiti right now yelling for America to get down there and get people out of the mud and rain. He’s built a camp for 45,000 Haitians who have lost their homes. I caught him on CNN this week. He said, “Get down here or people will die!” He’s right.
I hope you see what I’m saying, wherever or whatever the need, circumstances will never be perfect or perfectly safe. But go anyway. That’s when you’re needed most.
*To view Anderson Cooper's interview with Sean Penn click HERE