Today, we went for a walk and purchased 6 bananas for a dollar. We were able to get something that we would enjoy eating -yet help a family by making our purchase from them rather than the market (grocery store). Many people have set up stands selling all sorts of things here in Haiti; rice, beans, crackers, vegetables, fruit, sugar cane, and lots of hot foods, as well. We have not had the opportunity to purchase all of these items; however, we have gone for a few different walks to get fresh vegetables and fruit. A basket of about ten mangoes cost us just over $2. The mangos were so delicious. They were located far away as we were passing through an area that had lots of mangos. They do not seem to be as available here in the mountains where we are staying.
Before we came to Haiti, our host explained told us that the cost of food is very high here and although this is true of many items, we are finding that it is dependent on what you buy and where you buy it. Many items are imported to Haiti from America and other countries. These items are very expensive; in fact, those items are so expensive that there is unrest in the country that began just a few days ago. The people have demanded that the President be thrown out of the government. From what we have been told, the government has added a very large tax on all items that are imported. Buying at the market groceries, or other items, the price is about double or more what we pay in America. I can somewhat understand the higher prices for items that are imported; as I know there is a cost to import, a cost for the tax, and a cost to operate the market. What amazed me is how much some of the items are in the market that can be purchased from the small stands found on almost any road in Haiti. A whole chicken in the market is around 500 goudes ($12); a package of three carrots cost about 75 goudes ($1.85); and four tomatoes cost 85 goudes ($2). Now if I could get tomatoes for that price in Alaska, I would be pretty happy. So in a way, this price doesn’t sound so bad, although it is more than many Haitians make in a day. I do not know the exact price comparison for each item; however, Denver and I are finding that anything that is grown locally is much less expensive to buy from the people on the street rather than from the market. At first they may ask a price way higher because we are Americans-yet once they realize we are educated to their ways the price quickly becomes more reasonable yet they are still making a profit.
Denver and I struggled to figure out why it was costing so much to feed the people during our time at the pastors training here, because we were seeing the prices of the fresh produce that was available to purchase. With a bit of a language barrier we began to ask many questions. Even in the home of our host we tried to understand why it was that it is costing them so much to feed their family. We know that one of the reasons is that they feed many more people than just their own family every day. There are many people that are hungry that know that they can come here for food. We are happy to help in any way that we can, but even then the meals seam to lack the inexpensive produce that we know is available (items that any Alaskan would love to find for a good price).As we watched and asked many questions, we have learned that almost all the food is purchased at the markets. We are told that it is faster & easier to go to the market rather than trying to get it from the people since life is so busy. I do understand being busy; Yet, I feel this causes two issues: first it cost more for food. Secondly, the opportunity to help the people on the street is missed.
When we traveled to Codes de Fer, we were able to feed more people with less money. In my thinking this just doesn’t make sense. The difference is where the purchases are made. Many Americans are criticized for the method they use to help the people. It is said at times that it hurts the people rather than helping them. It was for this reason, we thought it was best to let the church make the food purchases to feed the people during the conferences. The people did get fed, which was the objective; however, I find that I am disappointed that more people weren’t helped by making the purchase from the people. In one effort it is not possible to change a mindset. Many feel it is not a meal if they do not have beans and rice. For those even a King’s table would not be appreciated. Yet little by little it is possible to try different methods to accomplish the same end goal making resources expand.
We may not always make the best choices on everything that we do, but as we will learn from our experiences we can grow making sure that it is done differently should the Lord bring us to Haiti again.
Additional thoughts from Denver:
Communication and understanding open the door for integrity and trust. When a person feels something is not being done the best way it is the right time to dig deeper to learn how both parties see the picture.
Clarifying communication builds trust and trust builds ownership of integrity. Mystery causes confusion and distrust. We have had minutes when we questioned motives and actions during this trip. Yet each time we pursued the understanding and made sure that we were on the same page together. Now that we are about to leave this group of people and our hosts we have established a connection that has been successful and we know the heart of those we are dealing with. The Lord has placed before us a New Project that Stacey & I have developed that we are praying about to help one of the communities we have preached at. We know this is a group that we can trust to do what we have before us. We will share more about this with you in the days ahead.