I spent hours with the mayor of Pignon. Watching Neil Van Dine, the country director for Haiti, Outreach, do the right thing.
I know. You think perhaps that drilling wells and building schools and running Haiti Outreach and saving thousands of lives and working with groups that come down and teaching about Haitian culture and telling his life story over and over again might be enough. That any one of the aforementioned is doing the right thing.
I watched as Neil negotiated the local politics to make certain that our efforts building the Pignon water supply happen. Two or so years ago Neil was given a mandate by the mayor to stop thinking about it. Stop measuring or surveying Pignon.
Stop your efforts to build a water system here.
So with all of the greatness of a natural statesman, Neil led discussions extending Haiti Outreach’s reputation and ability to continue to do any and all of the above listed tasks here, and extended our permission to work on the Pignon water system, and thus reminded me and all of us that doing the right thing means committing yourself long term to doing everything imaginable or unimaginable to get it done.
And moments later I watched representatives from Haiti Outreach lead a meeting in the Mayor’s office, bringing together several NGO’s operating in Pignon for a conversation about cooperation and about keeping channels of communication between the political power here and themselves open. After not long ago being told not to work on the Pignon water supply, one person’s, one organization’s commitment led to Haiti Outreach leading a meeting with the Mayor to increase communications and cooperation with other NGOs in the area, helping show them the path to getting more work done in Haiti.
You think drilling a well and providing potable water might be enough. You think building communities and creating managed water systems might be enough. In the end, lives here were served and saved by sitting in a meeting in the Mayor’s office and negotiating the rights to continue to serve. Amazing.