Thanks and Giving Haitian style

A recent conversation with another of the providers during our medical mission trip made me ponder why Americans are motivated to help those who live in third world countries and what the citizens of those countries owe back to the volunteers. One of the previous volunteers, who has also been to South America on medical trips, voiced his opinion that Haiti should not be your first experience in third world volunteer missions as the Haitians are not appreciative of your efforts. His work in South America was met with effusive praise, invites to private homes and small gifts. Patients in Haiti seem appreciative for what we can do, waiting for hours for our services and thanking us briefly after their family member as been provided with a medical service. The hospital staff is welcoming, but reluctant to change enmeshed routines or work longer days when we are there. I have been part of the team that saved the life of a baby or an adult and been met with only a perfunctory thank you. Don’t they know that we are spending part of our vacations, time away from our families and hard earned money to try and improve their lives?

Why do some of us continue to visit each year and now involve ourselves even further in the culture of Haiti by starting a microfinance program? The “pat on the back” from our co-workers when we return each year is short-lived until the next trip. For me, the driving motivator is that I believe basic health care is a fundamental right that should be accessible to all people of this world. There are many capable physicians that can do what I do in this country, but one week of providing surgical services in Haiti cannot be replaced by someone else. If healthcare is a right, then you should also have the means to pay for those services. Building a small business thru microfinance will enable many women to afford to pay for healthcare for their families. Many Haitians are eager to stop the hand-outs that have been a problematic part of their countries relationship with the United States and move forward with improving their daily life thru hard work. Should we expect a thank you when we are able to provide them with this opportunity thru a microfinance loan? I think WE should be thanking these women for allowing us to give them the financial means to accomplish this.