By Amy Watts and Manuel Padilla
Haiti Project Co-coordinators
The astonishing collapse of Port-au-Prince’s cityscape, three years ago, is often cited as an enduring witness to the bleeding of the definition of natural disaster into the definition of man-made disaster. Where does one begin and the other end? One of the lone structures that still stood, and that still stands from before the earthquake, near the airport is a hotel built during the time of Aristide. It was an example of a new set of standards for building codes implemented by the government. A building needs structural integrity to survive such a shock. But what we address in building codes we often neglect in our own relationships. Society needs standards too. Society needs structural integrity to survive and thrive.
Pax Christi Port-au-Prince is working to put in place the deep foundation and flexibility of community to newly address the instabilities in Haitian society, starting right where they grew up, in Cite Soleil. They are doing this at great personal cost and with real joy.
In this, the year of faith, we can learn a great deal from the staff and community in a place like Cite Soleil. Many characterize faith, and with it hope, as beliefs and expectations of things in the absence of the evidence, or even despite it. This is not only an unsatisfactory definition of these words but it puts them in the wrong category altogether. Faith and hope are not passive psychological responses to adversity where no alternatives exist for coping. They are the antithesis of that. Faith and hope do not simply function to shelter us from pain and difficulty. Instead, they cast a light. They help create the serene disposition, the very conditions for us to be able to think clearly, to navigate and engage with adversity, to see the reasons and the resources we have available to us to creatively, and with conviction, overcome. With faith and hope, we are given the space to pull ourselves together, to stop simply reacting out of fear of failure born of our own inadequacy. They are like the ‘first position’ in ballet from which all other movements derive, making the music, whether it be harmonic or dissonant, capable of being danced.
From this ‘first position’ of faith and hope, so much has been accomplished in the peace education and community building programs of Pax Christi Port-au-Prince. They are dancing. Many of you have been following our SAKALA collaboration with PCPAP and we are happy to report that our joint efforts will continue through this year. We at Pax Christi USA are grateful for foundation and membership support that has made another year possible to support our Haitian sister organization. Our main goals for the upcoming year will include 1) Implementing the peace education curriculum, specially designed to compliment their peace and soccer program, 2) Institutional capacity building, focusing on program creation and evaluation and grant writing skills, and 3) Continuing to build a sustaining network for Pax Christi Port-au-Prince’s long term relational and financial needs.
Thank you for your continued support for this important peacebuilding work. You may always contact us at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to find out ways you can support PCPAP and the collaborative goals with PCUSA. If you have not seen the short film documenting their work, please order your copy of Cite Soleil: Sun, Dust, and Hope today and share it with others who may be interested.
If you feel called to help sustain the collaboration this year, checks can be made out to Pax Christi USA with “SAKALA” in the memo line and mailed to 1225 Otis St NE, Washington, D.C. 20017.
For further reflections on Haiti and the work of Pax Christi Port-au-Prince, please read Lape in Cite Soleil by Pax Christi Michigan member Kim Redigan as well as the Pax Christi Florida report from their Haiti trip.