Privilege in Haiti

sunrise-in-haiti, TWA, Third World Awareness, charity, non-profit, volunteer, Cite Soleil, Haiti 2007

Blog post by Tom LaFrance

After our last evening meal in Haiti, John Callaghan said to the volunteers, “ We have an enormous privilege – being in Haiti.”

What does he mean, I wonder?

Days later, an answer comes from a Ron Rolheiser column:

The lesson . . . is that genuine religion, maturity, loyalty, . . . lie in letting ourselves be stretched by what does not emanate from our own kind.

I realize I was being…

Stretched into genuine religion by taking the long trip to Saut d’Eau waterfalls, putting my backpack down and trusting a young Haitian boy to guide my footsteps up the slippery wet stones. Slowly, I come to realize that this waterfall was the site of an apparition of Ezili Danto – the Black Madonna – a fierce mother figure as well as a goddess. I had learned this information while reading a National Geographic article, “How the Virgin Mary Became the World’s Most Powerful Woman.“ December, 2015.

Stretched into a deeper maturity, by spending my evenings washing socks and packing my backpack for the next day instead of continually socializing in the comfortable Methodist Centre living room watching sports on a large screen TV.

Stretched into loyalty by going back, yet another day, to the Missionaries of Charity, called the “Brothers” in Pele, to massage wounded bodies. Leaning down to reach people in low metal beds, touching crippled men and quiet, suffering women who can’t pay for this service and can only thank me by the deep look in their eyes. Returning again to Malnourished Children’s Clinic – the Sisters’ – to pick up the same child, although today he’s not smiling; he’s hungry and wet and once I pick him up he won’t easily be put back down in his crib.

I have been stretched into generosity by the people of Haiti, from a different county, but the same earth:

By the man who asks for my running shoes, I do have two pairs.

By the young man who asks again for money; this time he wants to start up a “grocery business,” after I have already given his school all of my personal daily “allowance money,” so he could write his exams. I can go to bank with my debit card.

By the doorman at the Brothers who has asked for my watch; I wait until our last day to give it to him. I have another watch at home in Canada.

I am beginning to understand what John was saying about “privilege.” 


Fr. Ron Rolheiser, “Community is formed through love, inclusion.” The Catholic Register, May 15, 2016; 14