Last evening I had my 2nd shower in the 7 days we have been in Haiti. I am a pro at bucket baths by now and can get really clean with very little water if I have soap and a washcloth. I do not take showers for granted so I am thankful even for the cold ones. Last evening the shower was really just cold water flowing out of a high faucet but it felt so good.
As always when Steve and I come to Haiti we are constantly problem-solving with our staff. Haiti is not an easy place to work and probably the most difficult part is that we do not understand the many ways Haitians think differently than we do. Things we take for granted that are not ethical are not seen as unethical at all- “just the way we do things here in Haiti”. We can knock our heads against it constantly or accept that we have to have a lot of supervision and oversight over every detail. When we cannot find the right persons to trust in a supervisory role or cannot afford them we have to accept that frequently we will be “taken” financially and materially.
It is common for Haitians to recommend someone for a job you want done and when they do, they always recommend a relative or friend not necessarily the person who knows how to do the job best or at the best price. So finding skilled workers is really hard. Added to the finding of a friend or relative to do your job, you can bet the price will include a kickback to the person who got them the job. We have some regulations and laws against this in the U.S. but here it is an accepted way of life.
It is easy to slip into a skeptical mode where you trust no one and that can be hard on one’s morale after a time. I think that is why so many NGO’s and overseas relief workers burn out. They just cannot get used to being “taken” and they feel their good will and generosity begin to make the people they came to help develop “entitlement” and “dependency” attitudes.
The problem is that administration and oversight take money and no one wants to see a large portion of a budget going to our administration and less to the actual work of saving lives. And yet all larger and successful organizations have learned that oversight and data collection and evaluation are necessary in order to use the rest of the funds responsibly. Midwives For Haiti grew really fast in the direction of providing a lot of direct care to patients in mobile clinics and the hospital in addition to our training program. We know we have made the difference between life and death for many. But we also hope our donors understand that administration of the programs is necessary also. With the right administrative staff we can teach by rewarding honesty and hard work and put in steps methods of terminating employees that do not do their job or use funds wisely.
Mary Francis is just one of our employees that takes very little supervision. She lives in Cabestor next to our birth center. She fixes the best coffee in the world with a mixture she gets at the market of star anise, cardamom, and cinnamon. And her plaintain soup is so delicious. I do not want to know how much sugar she puts in it. With her we know where our money goes. She buys our food at the market and she cooks it. And her life is so much better because we need to eat when we are visiting the birth center. I wish managing all of our employees was as simple as Mary Francis. But it is not that simple with most of them. Most of them we have to trust to do their work when we are not around and to use our money wisely.
Cold showers are the least of my worries while here in Haiti. I would take a bucket bath every day the rest of my life if I could know we will be able to expand our work, change more lives, and solve the problem of maternal mortality in Haiti.