Every mission planned by ABF sets a series of goals before the implementation phase. No different from the project of an artist who is about to sculpt a form or paint a picture, this is the groundwork that is crucial for focusing our efforts and best achieving our intentions.
The intentions that took us to Haiti on February 8th were those of sharing the first five years of the projects and the results achieved together with the local team Fondation St Luc, meeting our mutual need to take stock continuously improve, and to enhance our collaboration and set new goals.
This is a partnership that has brought over 15 million in granted funds to Haiti, as well as 19 empowerment projects implemented over these five years. Thanks to this shared commitment, many – indeed countless – people regain their dignity and trust in the future, every day. From access to education to health care, essential resources and disease prevention, we like to think that what we have tried to create in our first few years in Haiti is, in short, the opportunity – for those who have benefited and benefit from our projects – to express their full potential.
It was with this spirit that we landed in Port au Prince, with the desire and joy of sitting around a table, getting the chance to celebrate the results we have achieved (along with all the people who work in the field, in the schools and communities where we operate).
Although we had been informed of the civil unrest that had been plaguing the country for weeks, 24 hours after our arrival in Haiti, the situation that unfolded was unfortunately devastating: an outbursts of violence, with streets obstructed by sudden roadblocks (and the subsequent isolation of districts or entire communities), impulsive unruly demonstrations, besieged public buildings, fires and assaults… Reason had given way to the urgency of the incensed people looking for a way to survive the pressure of rising inflation and the continuous increases in prices (even of basic necessities).
Everything was closed, defunct, unfit for use: businesses, schools, roads and markets… This stillness was the backdrop to the despair of the most vulnerable people, the last of the last. A climate of guerrilla warfare pervaded, that of a situation out of control, even for the local police, as they do not have the necessary means nor sufficient numbers to handle emergencies such as these.
It was amidst this situation that we moved to the capital, trying to help, always aboard ambulances: these were some of the few vehicles that had a good chance of passing the roadblocks, with the wailing sirens almost seeming to want to join the exacerbated voice of the people.
Given the lack of access to essential resources, our local team had decided to increase the activity of the “Water Truck” project in the meantime, taking additional loads of water to communities outside the project’s normal operating range too. The price of water, like fuel, had by then skyrocketed. Yet water is life. It is a fundamental priority, and in life we trust, ever hopeful.
I think back to those troubled days, so emotionally long and difficult, during which we came face-to-face with our fears, but also with a willpower and a sense of responsibility that overcame the feelings that would have driven us to take the first plane out of there. It was only when the situation really went too far that – following the earnest advice of our local staff – we decided to leave the island, with the same sense of responsibility.
The state of guerrilla warfare continued for a few days after we left, then relented, only to crystallize into a kind of truce, for the moment.
In my head, in my heart, I carry the images of children looking for water everywhere. The stories of those who welcomes them at the hospital, but too late to be saved. At the same time, with the same intensity, I remember the strength and courage of a nation that we have learned, over time, to welcome, respect and support. And with them, our local partner, the Fondation St Luc, who is watching over them, our Haitian brothers and sisters, 24/7.
By ABF President, Laura Biancalani