The unemployment rate in Haiti is 70%. To put that in context, during the peak of the Great Depression, the United States was around 30% unemployment. Living wage in Haiti is the equivalent of around $5.50 per day. Minimum wage in the United States is $8+ per hour. For every Haitian that has a job, they are supporting around 10 people on their living wage of just $5 a day. $5 to feed more than 10 people, $5 to buy soap, water, clothing, medicine, and anything else they may need to take care of their family.
I live in a village called Bercy, and I love it here. My neighbors are incredible and the Pastors we partner with have taught me a lot since I moved here almost a month ago. Every day I walk the streets of Bercy and hang out with my friends, we meet new people, and every day we pass houses that our friends sell food and household products out of, we pass tons of little shops every time we leave the house. I’d never stopped to buy things from these neighbors, I honestly didn’t think much of it.
Yesterday I went into Bercy with one of the girls I live with, the same way we do every day. But this time we went out with a specific purpose. We had been craving “American snacks”: chips, cookies, all of the unhealthy things. We put some gourde – Haitian money — in a bag and went to see how many different shops we could find a snack at. A simple idea and gourdes equal to around $5 US led us to five different houses and shops before our bag was full and we had to go home for dinner. We were not disappointed on this snack run. Not only did we get a bag full of random snacks (most of them we didn’t even know what we bought) but we also ran into some of the kids we’ve gotten to know on their way out of school. We got home and feasted on cheese puffs, cookies, Haitian donuts, candy, drinks, cheese and crackers, and we found out that one of the drinks we bought was actually vinegar and we had just failed to read the label. We laughed and just had some fun enjoying new foods that don’t exist in America.
I don’t know if we had any impact on the men and women that fed us yesterday afternoon. I know that they impacted me. I know that they provided me with treats that we were so excited to find. I don’t know if the gourdes we used to buy our snacks was the only income from that day. I don’t know if that money was able to help feed someone, or help buy laundry soap. I don’t know if they would even remember me if I went back tomorrow. I do know that I’ll remember them. I know how much I spend on snacks in America. I know that every team that comes through the Breathe Center brings suitcases full of food, and I can only imagine the impact that the teams that visit every week could have if they didn’t bring any food. If they took the money that they used on food and paying to fly with that food and instead bought their snacks in Bercy, or in other nearby markets! What kind of change could that bring to the community? Would it change anything? You never know! But it doesn’t hurt to try! If you ever find yourself here, I’d encourage you to shop local and make some new friends while you’re at it.
We are called to love our neighbors and that looks like so many different things! Loving others looks like sitting on their porch and laughing together about teenage girl things. It could be reading the Bible together. It could be waving at them as you drive past. It could be watching a friend’s son as they have errands to run and meetings to attend. It could look like buying food from the people you pass on the street. Love crosses language and cultural boundaries. Love is universal and has no limit! What’s a new way you could love your neighbor today?