Below is a letter from Mike Fedele , founder and president of Life For the World.
This is my fourth update since the terrible earthquake shook the ground Southwest of Port Au Prince and stole tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives, and ruined millions of others.
We founded and built Maranatha Orphanage and School in Source Matelas, Haiti eight years ago after finding unwanted and abandoned children on the streets of Port au Prince. The number of children in our school and orphanage has grown each year. Today we have over 150 children at the school and over 20 workers affected by the earthquake. As I said in my previous email, there were no deaths and only one girl with some broken bones. The properties that we have and occupy, however, are severely damaged and we will need significant funds to begin rebuilding our orphanage and school, our goat farm property and the house we live in with our Haitian friends. The workers and kids and all of the Haitian poor we know are still sleeping outside in the open. But we must continue to feed over 150 children and over 20 adults every day.
Over the past eight years we have also helped other Haitians build up small business with donated capital, provided education and fed thousands of the poor in many villages. Most importantly, we developed friendships based on love and mutual respect, and treated Haitians as true brothers and sisters who have earned and deserve our respect and admiration. We enjoy being with Haitians and singing, praying, talking with each other in the villages, dancing on the streets, and playing in the markets. We love our Haitian friends and they tell us they love us too. Our work from the beginning has been about bringing healing to peoples lives: their spirits, their minds and their physical well being.
Rebuilding Haiti. What does this mean to most people? It means keeping people alive. It means recreating buildings, businesses and homes. It means finding food for everyone. It means trying to put families back together as much as that is possible. These are vitally important. Crucial to life. Right now a desperate work and one that requires all of our energy. I for-see a time in the near future where several million people will be needing humanitarian food each day. There is no commerce and I don't expect it anytime soon. Rebuilding the infrastructure of Haiti is definitely a huge part of our work. And it is going to be a work going on for a very long time in Haiti, requiring a lot from a lot of people. But our work also includes rebuilding of a different sort. Physical necessities, important as they are to life, are not all of life, and should not be all that we focus on in rebuilding Haiti as we move forward.
So while we are talking about rebuilding Haiti, let's think about something that has been on my mind for years: the Haitian soul. Let us not forget about the rebuilding of the human spirit. The human spirit is perhaps more important than all of the physical necessities of life. And right now there is very little discussion in the news about rebuilding the Haitian spirit, the Haitian soul. And that is what I want to talk about briefly. Because to rebuild Haiti to me means rebuilding the spirit of the Haitian, a spirit which was stolen from him over the centuries and which caused Haiti to be in the poor and unhealthy condition it was in before the earthquake. The Haitian spirit was stolen by the French in the business of buying and selling people in slavery and in the process teaching the Haitians they are worthless, only fit to be slaves. Their dignity was stolen by the French who occupied the major businesses of Haiti and withheld fair wages, building their lofty palaces in Petionville while the vast number of Haitians lived out their lives in abject squalor wandering on the streets of La Saline and Cite Soleil scouring the ground for food like animals. Their spirit was stolen by the corrupt governments of Haiti who denied the Haitian people dignity and equal access to resources and treated them like dogs fit only for crumbs from their masters table. And in rebuilding the homes and streets, businesses and schools, let us give back to the Haitians the thing they long for the most, the thing they want more than anything, and that is to be treated as a human being with equal value. To look in the eye of the Haitian, extend our hand of friendship, and tell him that he is our friend is harder than giving money or food, but it is perhaps the greatest gift we can give Haitians. It is the gift of dignity, the gift of friendship, the gift of lifting the Haitian soul out of his feelings of worthlessness and placing him along side us as our friend, companion and equal.
And over the years of being on the streets in Haiti and befriending Haitians in the market, and the villages and in the poo est areas, my brothers and sisters trusted me enough to let me peer inside their hearts and show me something that is inside them. They gave me the honor of letting me see something that is deep inside their soul. Something that they don't let everyone see. Something I had to earn through many years of living with Haitians and being among them in the villages and on the streets. They let me see that they struggle in their spirits with the feeling that they are still slaves. That is because in many ways the Haitian people are still treated as slaves.
There is a very severe and distinct Caste system in Haiti run by people in higher places who do not think the poor deserve a better life because they are racists and think they are superior to the poor. The existence of the poor, in their minds, is only necessary in extricating funds from other countries in order to line their own pockets and make bigger homes in Haiti. The rich French, and the rich mulattoes and blacks in government do not love the poor and do not even think they are worthy of a good home, a good job, and happy lives. And through this mistreatment, done over centuries up to and including this present day, they have continually fed the mind and spirit of the poor with the idea that they are worthless. My Haitian friends tell me: " rich la pa remen pov yo nan ayiti, you rayi yo", "the rich do not love the poor in Haiti, they hate them."
Let us not forget that rebuilding lives means rebuilding human beings. Real people with dreams and hopes of life, love and happiness just like you and me. Haitians are not animals or savages who we may think should be satisfied if they find only food and shelter. Dogs and cats may be satisfied with such, but not human beings. Haitians are people who know their God and want purpose and meaning in their lives. They want to be educated. They want dignity that comes from working and making a living. They want the joy that comes from accomplishing something with their lives. They want to feel that they are regarded as equals in the eyes of white people and light skinned mulattoes. This kind of rebuilding is much harder than rebuilding homes and businesses, because it involves changing the human heart. It means we must change in our hearts toward how we think about Haitians, thinking that we are superior to them. It means changing the hearts of the rich French and blacks who think they are superior to the poor and think the poor worthless knaves. And the changing of the human heart is the most difficult work if we view human history. But if we really want to rebuild Haiti and end the injustice and end the extreme poverty, then we must end the caste system that created the feeling of worthlessness in the heart of the poor and the feelings of superiority on the hearts of the rich. Otherwise, we will be no better off, perhaps worse, than when this "rebuilding" started. We will still have the Cite Soleils and the La Salines, filled with uneducated poor who have no hope for a better life, and we will still have a caste system after all the work of rebuilding the infrastructure is done; and caste system that will surely drive the Haitian people into abject poverty again and again.
Haitians are beautiful people. They are humble and patient, and can suffer very well. I have personally seen the very poor in Haiti pass seven days without food and not complain and seen this on many occasions. Haitians are generous and kind, compassionate and feel with those who suffer. Haitians are spontaneous and expressive, and love to dance with a tambou being play spontaneously and enjoy having a good time.
Let us allow our Haitian brothers and sisters to enrich our lives with their presence, their humility, love and all the beautiful things that make Haitians unique people. They are our brothers you know.
If you want to donate to our work, or orphange and the poor we assist in Haiti:
1. Go to www.lifefortheworld.com
2. Enter Site
3. Click on "Donate Today" in upper right hand side of website.
Thank you for your support and love for our brothers and sisters in Haiti.
Michael S. Fedele
Founder & President
Life For The World, Inc.
7618 Tapper Avenue
Hammond, IN. 46324