Haiti (MNN) — Haiti is caught in a painful rotation: disaster, donation, dependency. Each new tragedy, the most recent being Hurricane Matthew, demands of Haiti what little it has. Relief funds flood into the nation as long as the disaster is still fresh in minds around the world.
And yet, long after a crisis has faded away, they continue to look to foreign aid to survive their daily lives. That’s largely because little has been invested in the long-term development and sustainability of this impoverished nation.
Joe Richter of FARMS International says that to Haitians, depending on what others are willing to give is a method of survival.
Richter says, “This is a very sad thing for the people of Haiti and it’s very damaging to their self-worth, their dignity. But it’s an easy thing to fall into that trap.”
Relief aid is necessary, and so are resource programs for the poor. But when provisions are given with no movement towards sustainability, the recipients start to feel like they cannot do anything to help themselves.
“It becomes a vicious cycle and it eventually will harm relationships between the donors and the recipients. And this is the sad part about it — you see it go through a honeymoon stage and everything is wonderful. And eventually, more and more demands are put on the donor, and if the donor can’t keep up, sometimes those relationships break down and the people move on looking for another donor that can help them in their needs.”
It’s not just individuals who adopt this practice, either. Even churches have, for many years, depended on Western assistance to function. Richter says this means parishioners in Haiti are less likely to tithe since the needs of the church are already funded.
“It also discourages evangelism because God says where your treasure is, there your heart is also. And if your treasure stays in your pocketbook, that’s where your heart is. If your treasure is in the Church and the evangelistic efforts of the Church, and you’re supporting that, your heart’s going to be there also and it’s going to be your heart’s desire to see people come to know the Lord.”
In this way, outside help that isn’t actually empowering the Church can actually inhibit the Gospel.
FARMS International believes there is a way to help that empowers Haitians to be financially self-sufficient. First and most obvious, they can be taught how to utilize the options, opportunities, and resources around them. Second, they need a starting point and a chance. For FARMS, this takes the form of microloans.
Their small microloan project in Haiti functions as it does around the world. A committee connected to a local church is in charge of selecting Christians families with legitimate needs who want to start or improve their own business.
These interest-free loans have been incredibly successful in helping families get to their feet and then give back in a way that benefits their community and the Church.
“We have seen that over and over again in the FARMS program where people have given generously to the churches, income has gone up, outreach has increased, things they need for the church have been able to be purchased locally. And, the people really appreciate what FARMS does for them,” Richter says.
He says with a program like FARMS, the image of a poor beggar holding out their hand for donations is reversed. The people they work with and have supported are now tithing to their church and improving their life conditions. Furthermore, Richter says, they are praising God for the grace He has given them.
“It’s such a refreshing thing to see in Haiti — that type of dignity in the believers. And I would hope to see that ethic and that way of helping Haiti expand.”
Richter explains their operation in Haiti is small compared to the great needs this nation possesses. However, it is also a profound example of what can happen when people give with intentionality, love, and respect. It is combining generosity with thoughtfulness.
“Even though Haiti sometimes looks hopeless, it’s isn’t. There are things people can do to improve their situation when given a chance, and that’s what FARMS is all about.”
To learn more about the FARMS loan program, and to make a donation, click here.
Please pray for their work to expand in Haiti, and that the organizations there would see a need for long-term sustainability and community development.