Haitian Life

Introduction

Nestled below the United States, surrounded by the turquoise sea and powder-white sands of the Caribbean, lies the island of Hispaniola, known by the French as “La Perle des Antilles”, translation, “The Pearl of the Antilles.” Hispaniola today is separated into two nations, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti.

Haiti, or “Ayiti” was given its name by the indigenous tribes of its original inhabitants, the Taíno people. “Ayiti” is a word, which describes the mountainous terrain that covers most of the region.

What was once a lusciously, green and thriving island has been overrun by deforestation, eroding of soil, and ransacked by natural disasters. Haiti is densely populated, with a census count of over 9 million people. Nearly 80% of Haitians live in rural poverty, and only 48% are literate.

Despite the hardships and struggle many Haitians face day to day, Haiti is a vibrant country of colorful art, fantastic music, cloud forests and an intensely spiritual people whose humor and passion are contagious.

We see the face of Jesus in the people of Haiti, and know that His heart is to see them thrive in His love. Our prayer is that our children, through the love and instruction they receive at Danita's Children, will have the ability and gifting to bring the light of Jesus to their country that is sometimes very dark.

We believe there is hope for Haiti, and that it lives in the hands and eyes of our children and the supporters who make our work possible. Together we can make a difference.

François
History

When Christopher Columbus discovered the island of Hispaniola in 1492 its natives, the Taíno Indians, who largely occupied the Caribbean region at that time, inhabited it.

On December 5th, 1492, Hispaniola was claimed for Spain, which began European hostilities over New World control. In 1697, the hostilities between France and Spain were settled in the Treaty of Ryswick, giving France the western-third of Hispaniola, being subsequently named Saint-Domingue, today’s Haiti.

The French created large sugar cane and coffee plantations and Haiti became the biggest sugar producer and richest colony in the New World. In order to maintain productivity, tens of thousands of African slaves were imported to Haiti, outnumbering the region’s French population.

Inspired by the French Revolution of 1789 and principles of the rights of men, the slaves in Saint-Domingue pressed for freedom and more civil rights.

Led by Toussaint L’Ouverture, a slave revolt began in 1791. After much battle and bloodshed, the independence of Haiti was declared on January 1st, 1804, making it the only nation in the world to be established as a result of a successful slave revolt.

Over the years, Haiti has suffered from poor infrastructure, a main component of political disorder. In September of 1957, François Duvalier, commonly known as “Papa Doc” was elected to the office of President of Haiti, where he served until his death in 1971.

Papa Doc was initially welcomed with open arms by the people of Haiti, being known as a champion in fighting disease. But only two years after taking office, he enforced the Tontons Macoutes, a Haitian parliamentary force. He instructed this militia to commit systematic violence and abuse of human rights in order to counteract threats perceived to be from armed forces. This regime was responsible for the thousands of rapes and murders in Haiti.

The Tontons Macoutes remained active even after the presidency of Papa Doc Duvalier's son Baby Doc Duvalier, who preceded his father after his death, ended in 1986.

Few countries in the hemisphere have suffered through such an extensive run of unqualified repressive regimes and military dictatorships as Haiti.

Today, after many years of trial and error, the rebuilding from not only tyrannical rule, but devastations such as the 2010 earthquake, Haiti is still in a state of recovery.

On May 14, 2011, Michel Martelly took office as Haiti’s standing President. He ran his election with promise of the reinstating of Haiti’s military, which was previously abolished in the 1990s. It was the first time in Haitian history that an incumbent president peacefully transferred power to a member of the opposition.

Since taking office, President Martelly has received both criticism and praise from the citizens of Haiti. He is working to better the country’s economic stability and help pay recompense for the atrocities of the past.

People

Haitians are a vibrant, colorful and spirited people. For generations they have endured hardship, injustice and the effects of natural disaster.

The people of Haiti are resilient, hardworking and full of life. Like most island cultures, Haitians embody a carefree, loving nature. They are intensely spiritual and have contagious humor and passion.

The official languages of Haiti are Haitian Creole and French. Haitian Creole emerged from contact between French settlers and African slaves during the Atlantic Slave Trade in the French colony of Saint-Domingue.

Haitian cuisine is a blend of inspiration from the French and Latin American cultures and the natural resources of the island. Rice and beans is a staple and can be served with stewed vegetable, the savory dish of chicken and fried plantains, grilled fish and the cultural delicacy of goat.



Roman Catholicism is the official religion of Haiti, with 80% of the population professing to be practicing Catholics. 16% are estimated to be Protestant, but roughly half the population practices Haitian vodou developed from mysticism and Free Masonry.

On January 12, 2010, Haiti experienced the most devastating natural disaster in 200 years. It has been reported that nearly 300,000 of were killed, 250,000 injured and 1.5 million were displaced from the 7.0 magnitude earthquake. Over the past four years, Haitians have received help from foreign aid, non-government organizations and faith-based ministries such as Danita’s Children. They have worked to rebuild communities and offer safe havens of hope for the thousands of abandoned children.

Geography

Haiti is the third largest country in the Caribbean, only surpassed by Cuba and the Dominican Republic. It spreads across 10,714 square miles, slightly smaller than the state of Maryland and, the terrain consists mainly of rugged mountains interspersed with small coastal plains and river valleys.

The nation’s capital and largest city is Port-au-Prince, located in the western region is home to over 1 million people. Over the years, Port-au-Prince has developed a tourism industry and is home to the Toussaint Louverture International Airport.

The location of Haiti provides for a cultivation of multiple elements. Being nestled in the heart of the Caribbean, gives Haiti it’s tropical climate of warm temperatures, year-round. Beautiful, white-sand beaches, overlooking crystal blue waters attract tourists from around the world. And majestic mountains, which can be seen from nearly every corner of the island, are the finishing touches of Haiti’s unique characteristics, and the reason it is known by the French as the, “The Pearl of the Antilles.”

Although Haiti is laced with much natural beauty, it has also been terrorized by unpredictable, tragic and monumental natural disaster. Haiti sits along a line of “blind thrust faults”, making it susceptible to ravishing earthquakes, and the combination of the warm climate, costal region and erosion of soil, make it equally privy to hurricanes, flooding and mudslides. All have, which claimed multiple lives and destroyed villages over the years.

Haiti is divided into ten departments:
• Nord-Est (Northeast)
• Nord (North)
• Nord-Ouest (Northwest)
• Artibonite (location of Gonaives)
• Centre (Center)
• Ouest (West)
• Grand’Anse (Big Cove)
• Nippes (location of Miragoâne)
• Sud (South)
• Sud-Est (Southeast)

What was once a small village has grown to the bustling city of Ouanaminthe, the entry gate and first stop into Haiti. With paved roads, a marketplace for retail and a population of over 100,000 people.

Ouanaminthe, is the home to Danita’s Children, located in the Northeast region. The Massacre River in a natural landmark of the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, running in between the cities of Dajabon and Ouanaminthe.

Economy

Haiti is a free market economy that enjoys the advantages of low labor costs and tariff-free access to the US for many of its exports. Poverty, corruption, vulnerability to natural disasters, and low levels of education for much of the population are among Haiti's most serious impediments to economic growth.

Haiti's economy suffered a severe setback in January 2010 when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake destroyed much of its capital city, Port-au-Prince, and neighboring areas. Currently the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with 80% of the population living under the poverty line and 54% in abject poverty, the earthquake further inflicted $7.8 billion in damage.

In 2011, the Haitian economy had begun recovering slowly from the effects of the earthquake. However, two hurricanes adversely affected agricultural output and the slow public capital spending negatively affected the economic recovery in 2012. GDP growth for 2012 was 2.8%, down from 5.6% in 2011.

Two-fifths of all Haitians depend on the agricultural sector, mainly small-scale subsistence farming, and remain vulnerable to damage from frequent natural disasters, exacerbated by the country's widespread deforestation.

Haiti suffers from a lack of investment, partly because of weak infrastructure such as access to electricity. The government relies on formal international economic assistance for fiscal sustainability, with over half of its annual budget coming from outside sources.

The Martelly administration in 2011 launched a campaign aimed at drawing foreign investment into Haiti as a means for sustainable development.

Ouanaminthe, is home to the first Levi-Strauss factory as an initiative to promote the stabilization of Haiti’s economy by employing thousands of Haitian nationals.

In the Northeast region, Haiti looks to the Dominican Republic for imports of goods, but with a history of cultural conflict, at times receiving needed items are a challenge. Riots, strikes and border closings can all prohibit the exchange of goods and sales between Haitians and Dominicans.