What Difference Does it Make? Part 4: Shelter

We are moving to the element of a community about which I know very little. But this topic is what inspired me to think about third world countries in a different light. This topic caused me to question whether the American, first-world way is the only acceptable way. It changed my perspective on what is necessary for survival.

In 2010, the earthquake in Haiti destroyed many homes and public buildings in Port au Prince. As a result, numerous families found residence in tents. There are currently several tent cities in Haiti, including Cite Soleil.

Because people lived in tents, there was very little protection. Many people were kidnapped, raped, and/or killed. Strong winds and pouring rain would invade the tents, making it impossible for the inhabitants to get comfortable.

Many people still live in tents. Struggling to survive, they pray for someone to intervene and help them relocate.

Our team worked in a resettlement village. Everyone living there used to live in tents, but the government asked them to move into homes. Our bumpy bus drove past the small cement buildings. We knew there was no running water. There were barely windows! How could that be considered good living?

As we talked about it, a woman who had grown up in Haiti shared her insight. Most Haitians did not know what American houses look like. Haitians do not aspire to have large mansions. Most people in Haiti just want protection. They want shelter from the heat and from the rain. These cement houses, albeit small, provided for the needs of these people.

Again, I know the least about this topic. But I want to start a conversation. What IS necessary for survival when it comes to shelter? Do we need air conditioning or heat? Do we need running water and sewage?

The concept of shelter caused me to take a step back and rethink my American values. What if the things we consider wrong or bad are actually just different? To fix Haiti, do we need to buy every Haitian family a nice house?

How can we help Haiti? Does Haiti even need our help?

Even several days after coming back from Haiti, I am still wrestling with these questions. It may take longer than I thought to answer them.

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