The picture makes me chuckle. In another version I am cropped out, and the image is focused on the passion and vibrant colors of this impromptu roadside song. Why does this version seems so different? Because I stand out so sorely. As much as I like to pretend I’m not stranger in Haiti, I am, and always will be. My Haitian friends know all the soulful hymns and praise songs by heart, but the paper I’m holding doesn’t even have the right song on it. They have each experienced hardships and deprivation I can’t even imagine, but my awkward height in this picture proves I’ve always had enough to eat. And their singing mingles hope and pain in a way I can only mimic. I sing my heart out too sometimes, but I have to draw on personal experience, rather than collective. They are so used to singing the collective heart of their culture, that the air of Port-au-Prince was filled with worship the night of the earthquake, and for weeks afterwards.
For me, this serves as an illustration of what Vwazen Nou is all about. We support Haitian-led organizations and programs quite simply because we are strangers. We could teach community health classes, repair homes, feed kids and visit patients ourselves. But we would be depriving people of the chance to be understood, to be fully listened to, and to be welcomed into a Hope that lives in the hearts and songs of their own community – not one that comes from far away.
Vwazen Nou Vice President, Operations