The Wrong Way to Help in Haiti

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Two reasons for this post. 1. It might help those who wish to help during the crisis in Haiti, and 2. It is a good reminder about what it may take to manage a major change effectively.  Nathanial Whittemore’s post “What Goes Wrong with Rebuilding Efforts (and How to Do Better This Time)” offers some thoughts when outsiders try to do good in situations like the Earthquake in Haiti.

1. Lack of local knowledge. The need to understand the complexities and uniqueness of the culture you want to help.

2. One-dimensional victim-centric view of impacted populations.

3. Lack of respect for local economic systems.

4. Lack of appreciation for the importance of political power. He suggests looking for organizations that understand the political forces in the country.

4. Lack of commitment.  Focusing on just the immediate disaster and leaving during the rebuilding process.

Other posts warn people to avoid just going to the country thinking they can help, or from sending their own “care” packages. They claim that these just clog the ports and don’t take into account the transportation and other logistical challenges of getting these donations to people.