Pastor Lubin Beaucejour,
USA BEM Director
As we serve abroad we should always focus on local empowerment, not dependency.
As we go on the mission field with the mindset to serve others in need, we need to change the expectations on both sides. That is one of the difficulties that occurs when we go outside of the US with Western views.
So what are these expectations that need to change?
The American’s expectation is to go to Haiti and joyfully serve the Haitians and meet their needs, whether physical or spiritual.
The Haitian staff’s expectation is for the Americans to come and provide employment for them.
The Haitian patient’s expectation is to wait for each American mission trip to repeatedly meet their needs. This is exactly what we need to fight against. Because dependency is not true freedom.
So how can we empower the Haitian people so they don’t have to be depending on us forever?
Some of us who are involved are motivated by our faith to go. Others feels is just the right thing to do. Both motivations are correct. It’s not why you go, rather it’s how much of an impact your visit will have in the long term. How can we as professionals play an effective role while promoting the welfare of those who count on us for the best decisions for their welfare?
One example of this is that we have the much needed care of the people of Haiti in mind with our hospital project. At the same time we want to empower the locals to take charge while minimizing dependency.
Haiti is my homeland. I’ve been doing mission work there since the year 2000, from education to medical to construction. Every time I sit on the return flight to NY, I ask myself the following: How much of a difference did my team and I make this time? Every single day, we met people living in deplorable conditions simply seeking care, money, food, medication and baby formula. In the process, I’ve learned we are portraying an unintentional image of dependency. As a result the big picture is scary. The local people think we are and will be there forever to give them a “quick fix” to their problems. Often we fail to encourage them to take charge of themselves. The local nurses, community health workers and interpreters need the proper training to make a difference. They need to look at their job not as something that guarantees a paycheck but as an opportunity to help people take charge of their personal lives. These workers should not consider the “peasants” as fitters or bridges for their gain but rather as people who work the land to feed the locals, the force that keeps Haiti moving forward. With the current view it can be discouraging to volunteer in such conditions but I truly believe that if we work with all the levels that coordinate care, we can make a difference.
As we are constantly working to improve the lives of the needy but precious people of Haiti, let us pause and think how we can be a force for empowerment and not dependency.
Pastor Lubin Beaucejour
USA BEM Director