In March of 2020, many Americans ransacked the store shelves to ensure that they were well stocked with toilet paper. What is it that would motivate such an unusual response by the American public? In two words – scarcity mentality. In the developed world, many have been fortunate to have their basic needs of food, water, and shelter met, which allows people to think beyond themselves or the current day and plan for a brighter future. And yet, what has this epidemic shown us? That despite all of our comforts, anyone can fall prey to the scarcity mindset which leads to an “every man for himself” mentality.
Now imagine living in scarcity for generations. What repercussions would result from that reality? On the surface, one would see poverty, hunger, lack of access to basic necessities such as clean water and stable shelter. Slightly below that, many would recognize many social structures that keep the status quo in place. Some such examples are: corruption, gender inequality, hunger, systemic or governmental issues.
In Haiti, many are accustomed to this way of thinking which leads to a victim mentality and living in a reactive mode rather than a proactive one. By addressing the overt problems (hunger, clean water, housing, etc.), many organizations are trying to help, but they are merely putting a bandaid on a gaping wound. In order to find real cures, it’s crucial to look beyond the social structures and examine individual mentalities that permeate the social structures. Therefore, in order to effect lasting change, individuals must acknowledge and embrace their role as change agents in their own society.
At Haiti Outreach, we are committed to changing the conversation from one of dependence and helplessness to one towards individual responsibility and accountability. This past February, some of our Board members, Saurel Quettan and Pam Prosser, along with our Country Director Neil Van Dine and our Community Development Director Rogé Michel, held a leadership training to instill a new way of thinking. The minds that crafted this vision knew one thing was certain: if this dream is going to be sustainable, it must be led by the Haitian people themselves.
This training was offered to government leaders from Cabaret and Archaie, two communes that Haiti Outreach will be engaging with the partnership of UNICEF this year. Given the cultural mentality of pointing fingers and blaming others for the issues that exist in Haiti, it was essential to bring them to a neutral location, the beautiful Decameron Resort. Bringing these leaders to a neutral zone facilitated their ability to forgo previous grudges and focus on working together to create a different future for their communes and by extension, their entire nation.
The course was designed to encourage leaders to believe in their own abilities to effect meaningful change with or without support from external parties. The leaders realized that they have been stuck, and that there is another way – to start working together. Once they shifted their mentality, they could see how their leadership can affect the social structures and the role they can play in transforming their nation.
This model is very similar to the way that our Field Animators engage the people at the community level. The main difference of this particular training has been that, by engaging the leaders at the government level, Haiti Outreach has established a way for this concept to take root, and for the leaders to then go out and be the ambassadors of that future and be the ambassadors regardless of opposition.
Thanks to this training, they walked away with an actionable plan and benchmarks with dates and names of who will be responsible for what, how to overcome barriers that will inevitably arise and how to hold each other accountable to support the plan. Prior to the course, neither accountability nor personal responsibility were familiar concepts. Now, they have not just any plan, but a plan that THEY created.
How will we know that this training has been effective long-term? Going forward these leaders will be attending future trainings with our Field Animators who will be guiding the Community Leaders to effect changes in their communities. This on-going relationship will allow the government leaders to continually be influenced by our philosophy and model. They will see first-hand the transformation that is possible when the people are empowered to step up and take the reins in affecting change for a better future for themselves and for future generations.