Everyone roots for the underdog and there is no dog under this one. The island of La Gonave produces the poorest people, in the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
Visiting La Gonave with the idea of bringing change can be quite a daunting task. The need is certainly quantifiable. There is between 75% and 90% unemployment. The largest employers on the island are NGO’s (non governmental organizations) doing their best to help. There are no public schools, no real municipalities, no roads, no public power, water or sanitation systems, etc.
It is easy to talk about “the island” and refer to it’s inhabitance in terms of population density, age, gender and location. But these are real people, each of whom has their own story. They have dreams, talents, emotions and desires just like us. Once a project begins to touch people whom you meet, it all becomes personal.
Although we do our best to tell the stories through blogs, videos and photos, it is impossible to capture the essence of the punishing poverty unless you are actually there.
Until you smell the stench, live without water in the heat, walk on craggy rock covered roads, and through fields covered in thorns, hold starving children for yourself, and experience the desperation of human suffering, you just can’t quantify this. It is impossible to measure the sea of compassion that flows from our hearts for the people of La Gonave and this is why we do what we do.
As we drilled water wells last week in La Cayan we handed rolls of Smarties to children between two and six years old. These children unwrapped their candies and were happy to share their treat with other children around them. The fact that these children who have nothing, were willing to share their gift certainly moved and convicted us.
Every time we drill a well, or feed a child, it reinforces that poverty can be overcome. It is within our power, our ability to defeat poverty. Truthfully if we work together with our resources, poverty will topple.
La Gonave is desolate, but it doesn’t have to be.