“Liar!” she leaned in closer to my face and practically spat the words at me. “Liar!”
I apologised again and took a step back, planning my escape. She took a sharp intake of breath, and I braced myself for the next insult, but instead she whipped her head around and stormed off down the road. I sighed and carried on, the shouts of “liar” ringing in my ears.
I had been coming back from the office to collect something from the house when I heard the familiar shout, ‘HEY YOU!’ I smiled, ‘Bonjou’ I replied. She crossed the road and stopped in front of me, her hand held out. ‘I’m hungry’ she explained. Oh.
I apologised – I genuinely had no food or even any cash with me, I had nothing to give her.
Haiti has been so poor for so long, and has been given so much. The expectation is that a white person is there to give. Not giving is unacceptable.
I had recognised the girl, a young mother of two tiny toddlers who are often around at that point in the road. Almost every morning they run up to me, hands outstretched. But this is not affection; it is not for a hug. ‘Give me a dollar’. From such a young age they already have their expectations of the foreigners they see in their neighbourhood.
This is one of the things I struggle most with here in Haiti. The culture of dependency. An expectation that something will always be given. A right to be given something. A right, but very little willingness to take on any responsibility.
Earlier that morning I met with one of our beneficiaries who we have trained to make bio-sand filters. He was enthusiastic about the project and with the recent business training he had been given, spoke of his vision of using his skills to serve the community. A mason by trade, he takes pride in his work, determined to make high quality products that would benefit his family and others, and provide a vital source of clean water.
I often feel ambivalent about my time here, with extreme highs and lows over the course of a day. It feels like a rollercoaster ride sometimes. But for every low there is a high. An uplifting testimony, a project come to fruition, watching the seeds of transformation begin to take root and grow.