Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Brave or Foolish?

I came home from a meeting about 2pm yesterday to have my neighbour tell me their dog had fallen into the creek and been swept over Webster's Falls. Miraculously, the dog has survived the fall (absolutely astonishing!), but was now stranded on an inaccessible ledge just below the falls with the current surging by. After a few hours some bystanders risked their own safety to climb their way to him and eventually got Murphy out. I suppose they were heroes, but from where I watched I was truly fearful that one of them would slip into the creek and be in more danger than the dog was. So were they brave or foolish? It's sometimes a fine line.

How does this relate to the Catalyst Foundation?

This Sunday I'm supposed to be travelling to Haiti to participate in a dental project with MMI. The issue is that the last couple days there have been violent protests there, in the city where we're going to be based. The project director, Tim DeYoung,let us know that things are pretty dangerous right now. He thinks things might very well be settled by the time we're to arrive, but he wants to see what happens in the next day or so. When they called me with the news they asked my thoughts.

Haiti is always somewhat volatile. Being the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere and having food prices increase by 40% in less than a year makes that inescapable. Political stability has really never been part of the picture.

So, what should I do? If Tim (who knows Haiti intimately as a resident there) says he thinks it will be safe should I trust that judgment? I'm hesitant. I know that I can reschedule for another trip later this year, to another place where the need is enormous. I don't believe Haiti in particular is somewhere I'm supposed to be. So would going there next week be an act of courageous faith, or one of unnecessary risk? And how do we distinguish the difference?

I'd love to hear thoughts from some who have more international experience than I do...


Anonymous said...

Chris, I think it depends upon precisely what you will be doing there. If it is observation then perhaps another timeframe is warranted. If you are going there to speak or lead a group who is dependent upon your presence then you should go. Either way it is a step of faith - to stay or to go.
My gut is saying that you should wait and postpone.
Is that helpful? :)


stu said...

My principle has always been to rely heavily on my contacts in-country. Several times, I have traveled to areas that are in the news for all the wrong reasons (Liberia, Sierra Leone, Congo...) and generally find that life continues on... Of course, the cameras are always going to be where the rock-throwers and Molotov-cocktail hurlers are. Local people will give you the best idea of how dangerous or unstable things really are. Riots in Haiti are not that remarkable (perhaps more newsworthy right now since Haiti has been going through a period of relative calm). I have been there in the past when there were widespread riots (related to an election) but followed the usual rules (avoid angry mobs, listen to my hosts, go in with weapon drawn and safety off, etc.) and, aside from having to step over some burnt tires and broken glass, did not suffer adverse effects. That being said, you also don’t want to blindly walk into a nasty situation.

Risk is a funny thing. We worry a lot about disease, crime and conflict when traveling to a poor country, but usually don’t think twice before climbing into a car (most likely the riskiest thing you will do anywhere). We urge caution, but there are also risks to being overly risk-averse, if you want to do your job well and really connect with people.

I suppose I don’t have any advice other than to listen to people who are living there and know what’s really going on. If they say it’s OK, get on that plane. If they say put it on hold, don’t.