Many of us are going a little stir-crazy with all of the time at home during COVID-19. You can only binge so much Netflix, right? Well, we live in the Carrefour neighborhood of Port-au-Prince which is one of Haiti’s most populated areas, yet we typically only get electricity from the city for a few hours once or twice a week. Sometimes we don’t even get that. While we’re blessed to have solar panels for our home, most people here can’t afford them, so they spend nearly every evening sitting in the dark hovered around tiny flashlights or whatever they have to give a little light.
In Haiti, staying at home doesn’t mean running out of good shows on Netflix. It means sweating through miserably hot nights without even a fan to cool you down.
Imagine no internet, no TV, no light, no fans, extreme heat and only warm water to drink. That’s what most nights are like for the Haitian people.
But every now and then…we do get electricity.
The other night we were sitting in our home when we suddenly heard the sound of cheers erupting throughout the neighborhood. People were yelling and clapping because after many nights of darkness the lights and fans suddenly turned on. I looked out the window and saw a young boy running gleefully through the street turning cartwheels and yelling, “Yo bay kouran! Yo bay kouran!” (They gave electricity!) Everyone was happy because, at least for this one night, life would be a little more enjoyable.
But then just as the cheering had faded away, everything once again turned dark. A collective groan could be heard throughout the neighborhood. Someone yelled “Amwey!” which means “Help me!” It couldn’t have been even a full minute before the electricity turned off once again.
Sadly, this is often how life is here in Haiti. Just as soon as you catch a ray of hope, it’s dashed to the ground. The young people of Haiti grow up in an environment where you get just enough electricity to feel like you’re being taunted, just enough to remind you of what could be. They see few opportunities for employment, and they don’t know if they’ll have enough money to finish high school much less continue onto college. They’ve seen their country ravaged by earthquakes, hurricanes, cholera, political unrest, and gang violence, so today when a global pandemic reaches their shores it’s just another in a long line of devastating calamities over which they have no control.
People are angry, scared and frustrated, yet in spite of it all, they also cling to hope. Even on the darkest of nights, you can hear people laughing and music playing on the street.
Vendors are selling hot dogs and barbeque by the side of the road. People still get up every day and figure out a way to eat, to live, and to find joy.
In a place like Haiti, where hope is a delicate commodity that hangs in the balance, any little thing could be the difference.
That’s why we started Thrive Ansanm. Yes, it’s about connecting youth to education, mentoring and resources, but it’s ultimately about fanning that still small flame of hope.