Violence in Haiti

I know Haiti isn't the world's safest country right now. I know. I realize I'm potentially bringing people that I love into a situation of heightened insecurity. I want my travel partners to make informed decisions and I know that worried families, including mine, are reading about escalated violence in kidnappings in Haiti, detailed in an article in the Miami Herald.

I'm aware that, while the earthquake created a potential for incredible unrest, there has been relatively little violence. But some exists. It's somewhat reassuring that, while kidnappings are at a slightly higher level than last year, only 17% have targeted foreigners. But 17% is enough to cause concern and my friends and I definitely fall into the category of "wealthy" that the murders and kidnappings are targeting.

It's important to be honest with myself and my travel partners about potential danger. But it's also essential to realize just how far Haiti has come in recent years, and the fact that they've retained some of their progress against violence and crime even after the earthquake is laudable. From 800 abductions in 2005 down to 68 so far this year is pretty astounding progress. Cite Soleil, outside of Port au Prince, was once the world's most dangerous slum. Now NPFS has street schools in Cite Soleil, and I definitely distributed bread out of a truck there back in January without fear for my life, with a mass of boney, poky, malnourished children grabbing and yelling "hey you" and "blan, ba'm pen (white person/foreigner, give me bread)" being the most menacing site I encountered.

Luckily for us, staying within a walled (I believe the collapsed exterior walls have been reconstructed) hospital complex leaves us little room for danger. Exercising caution will be important, but my previous experience with the incredibly hospitable and curious but loving Haitian people puts me at ease. And the fact that NPFS is incredibly well-known and revered by so many Haitians put us in a good position to be respected and receive more gratitude than anything. There are thousands and thousands of foreigners and relief workers in Haiti, and I'm choosing to focus on those numbers rather than 17% of 68 kidnappings.

To me, it's worth it. I'm not going to hide anything from my friends and I'm sure they'll make the right decision for them and their families. But when it comes to Haiti, there's a lot I'll be willing to risk.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." ~Anais Nin