Strong voice in Mass, struggles persist in Haiti

The fall brings many things to the Haitian community. A local election in which Mattapan residents, a huge contingent of whom are of Haitian descent, proved themselves to be a force at the polls. Governor Deval Patrick won a second term. He’ll have a chance to fulfill a campaign pledge to develop a comprehensive housing strategy for thousands of displaced Haitians in the commonwealth. Carlos Henriquez, a dedicated community advocate, succeeds the first Haitian-American elected official in the state Marie St. Fleur, to represent the 5th Suffolk district.

A successful financial literacy program, Moving from Debts to Assets run by the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, has helped hundreds in the community. The esteemed Haitian Studies Association hosts its annual conference at Brown University, with a special focus on healing and reconstruction. Most of the top candidates for Haiti’s presidency made a pit stop in Boston, as part of their efforts to gain Diaspora support.

It also brings continuous heart-breaking news from Haiti. The island is reeling from a cholera outbreak with over 9,100 cases reported and has claimed almost 600 lives in three weeks. The first (and hopefully last) major hurricane of the season— Tomas— flooded parts of the southern coast, but spared Port-au-Prince, where over 1.3 million homeless earthquake survivors live. Fewer lives were lost than expected, however, cases of cholera have been confirmed in the capital. The Haitian people are bracing for more preventable loss of life.

What of the international humanitarian aid relief effort? It has failed. This impending epidemic spread of disease is a direct result of the massive failure to develop sustainable solutions during initial distribution of aid. For several months, advocates had been pleading with the U.S. and Haitian governments to provide strong leadership and implement a short-term relief plan that builds a solid foundation for long-term rebuilding – and most importantly, places the Haitian people’s rights at its core.

In Haiti, the November 28 elections ushers in the end of fall. Some argue this is the most important election for this democracy in its infancy. The next administration will oversee the foundation of reconstruction. Since the legitimacy of these elections is questionable at best, what does this mean for the future of Haiti?

One thing is certain: Haiti lives on in its people, whether they live on the island or abroad. For those of us who live abroad and more specifically in this great city of Boston, Haiti lives on in our stories. We share these stories of heartache and triumph as we continue to weave our fabric in the tapestry of free society.