International Ministries

Long-term development in Haiti: a hand up rather than a hand-out

January 11, 2012 Journal
Join-the-network.sm Tweet

After the devastating earthquake in January 2010, American Baptists gave generously through the One Great Hour of Sharing offering to help with relief and rebuilding needs in Haiti. A portion of that offering was also set aside to help the Haitian Baptist Convention (CBH) address more fundamental long-range development needs.

We were asked to head up a team of IM missionaries on “special assignment” to work with the Haiti Baptist Convention (CBH) on the design of church-based integrated development programs.  Our Team did field research and consulted with the CBH about possible economic and agricultural development projects the Convention could undertake using these gifts.

What a privilege it was to get to know Rev. Dr. Emanuel Pierre, the CBH General Secretary, whose vision is to empower churches to rebuild Haiti in every sense. The country’s poverty and decades-long suffering are not just physical, but emotional, spiritual, and social as well. Only the local church in Haiti is in a position to address all of these dimensions of human need – if its members are mobilized to do the kind of integral mission that Jesus did. The CBH’s first and most fundamental challenge is to help more of its churches catch this vision of being “salt” and “light” to their communities (Matt. 5:13-16).

We had many fruitful discussions about the vast difference between relief and development. Many individuals, churches and governments around the world have given generously over the years to help Haiti recover from hurricanes, floods, and the most recent earthquake. When disaster strikes and people are hurting and hungry, providing immediate relief (food, water, medical services, etc.) is clearly the right thing to do.  Once those immediate needs are taken care of, though, what is the next step in the recovery and rebuilding process?

 It is clear that Haiti needs people who have a long-term commitment to small-scale, self-help, church-based community development focused on empowerment and local initiative. When we engage in development (vs. relief) we invest in people for the long-term in a process that is more a marathon than a sprint. Development is time intensive (vs. money intensive) and deals with what is vital or foundational in a country rather than what is urgent or symptomatic. The goal of integral development is to build capacity by empowering people to learn, understand and take action to solve the problems they themselves have identified. While relief tends to create dependency on hand-outs, development emphasizes self-help and a “hand-up” by doing things with people rather than for them.

How can American Baptists be responsible partners with the CBH as it seeks to be an agent in the rebuilding of Haiti? Haiti has been unintentionally crippled in part by the well-meaning generosity of generations of Americans and Europeans with a relief mentality. There are perhaps as many as 15,000 NGOs (and scores of multi-lateral government aid projects) at work in the country trying to help the Haitian people in various ways, with apparently little coordination or information sharing between them.

We met dedicated, visionary leaders who are valiantly trying to do development work against very stiff odds – and succeeding person by person, community by community. We need to come alongside our Haitian sisters and brothers to encourage and build capacity. Our challenge is to walk with them without dominating through our money, our ideas or even our desire to help. Our example is Jesus, who had compassion and taught, preached and healed – and called us into the harvest field to do likewise.

Thank you for your support and for walking with our sisters and brothers in Haiti.

Bruce and Ann Borquist


Donations are still being accepted and can be made on the IM website.  Go to www.internationalministries.org/items/80   or write a check made payable to “One Great Hour of Sharing – Haiti Earthquake Relief” and mail to: International Ministries, P.O. Box 851, Valley Forge, PA 19482, or make a check payable to your church and write “Haiti Earthquake Relief” in the memo section.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with eight out of ten people living in extreme poverty, is about the size of Maryland, and is located on the western half of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.  The Dominican Republic is on the eastern half.  The northern portion of Haiti, where most of IM’s mission work has been located, is approximately 100 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter.