As we’ve been watching events unfold in the US over the past two weeks our hearts have been heavy. While it would be natural to want to speak out immediately, we’ve also been watching our friends in the black community asking that we first listen and learn, then be active in standing with them in the fight against injustice towards people of color. And by standing with them they are asking for more than words, they need us to be DOING.
I’ve been thinking and praying a lot about what our role as an organization is in the fight against injustice and standing with people of color. As I’ve been rolling all of this over in my mind and heart, and Chris and I have been talking together, I keep coming back to the place of knowing that this is the very reason that Clean Water for Haiti exists. It IS the root of why we do what we do. The organization was started to fight injustice that deeply affects people of color.
Haiti, as a nation, fought for, and then claimed its independence from slavery in 1804 – over two hundred years ago. It was the first black republic to be founded on a slave revolt. While that is amazing, we still, over 200 years later, see the scars and effects of slavery on this nation. People of color have been trying to rise out from under the oppression of slavery for centuries all around the globe, but here in Haiti the struggle has been so difficult for so many reasons.
The core of why we exist is, yes, to help provide access to clean water, but we do this because we know that the reason people in Haiti do not have access to this very basic thing is because of centuries of broken systems that continue to keep them in a state of poverty and oppression. We do it because we believe that every person has value, and yes, we want to physically work towards connecting people with a means to improve their health and situation, but more so because we believe they matter. The black lives we see around us every day, and interact with every day, they matter.
Chris and I are also Christians, and while we don’t talk about that on this platform a lot, it is the thing that drives us in everything we do and in how we lead. We believe that God has called us to love people first, no matter what. For us that means we are always coming back to that as we lead, as we develop programs, as we employ local people, as we work with our board and donors, and in how we communicate on behalf of the organization. It affects how we raise our children and how we interact with our community. We are also broken people who often make mistakes, but we try to be aware and have soft hearts so we can change and grow through those things, and ask for forgiveness when needed.
As I’ve been thinking through these things, I realized that my first thoughts about writing this were to go and list off all the things that we do as an organization to work towards justice and equality, but that’s not what’s needed right now. Right now we need to continue to listen and learn how to be a support to our brothers and sisters.
If you’re looking for resources that can help you learn and understand this Google document is a great place to start. For the month of June the movie Just Mercy is free to stream on all platforms. I had already had it in my mental list of things I wanted to watch so we’ll definitely be checking it out this month. I also just started reading White Awake, which isn’t on the list but I believe should be required reading for anyone who identifies themselves as a Christian. Another book that Chris and I both read several years ago is The Book of Negroes, which is fiction but based on a historical document by the same name.
And, while CWH is registered in both the US and Canada, we know that our greatest area of impact is here in Haiti, working to support the black lives on our staff, in our community where we live, and in the communities that we serve. It’s our commitment to do that not only in how we shape our programs, but in our employment practices, at the board level as we work on governance, in how we welcome visitors here in Haiti, in communicating with our support base, and on platforms where we share about the work that we’re doing. If you have questions about any of those things I hope you’ll reach out, and we hope you’ll join us as we continue to learn how we can fight injustice and racism.