Disaster Brings Haitian Americans Back Home
Young people with Haitian roots were drawn to their homeland after the earthquake two years ago.
Whether this reversal will ever be realized or be enough to meet the extraordinary challenges the country currently faces remains to be seen. But the surge in involvement by the Diaspora has become visible.
Today, people from all over the Diaspora are traveling in and out of Haiti for the first time to contribute their talents to the island in ways they haven't before.
Some have returned permanently. Young Haitian Americans like Samuel Darguin, 25, and Fabrice Armand, 29, represent the spectrum of participation that Haiti has been witnessing from its sons and daughters since the earthquake.
Darguin, who is the founder of the Haitian American Caucus, returned to live in Haiti in March of 2010. Originally from the island, he's a graduate in political science at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and now works as the country director for HAC, where he develops sustainable community programs for families in Port-au-Prince that are facing challenges in employment, education and professional development. Using École Shalom des Frères, a primary school in Croix-des-Bouquets, as home base, Darguin and HAC have housed more than a thousand foreign volunteers to help him implement these programs since the earthquake in 2010.
"From March 2010 to September 2010, we housed 30 volunteers every two weeks," Darguin says. "That's 60 visitors a month." And in 2011 that number was just over 300, many of whom were Haitian Americans, returning back to the island to provide expertise in areas like education, construction, microfinance and agriculture.
Yet Darguin insists that there are even greater possibilities and room for more to get involved. He understands the appearance of disconnect that may have existed between Haitians abroad and their countrymen in the homeland for decades; however, he feels that the current condition of the country creates a new occasion for Haiti to build a superior legacy.
"For our parents' generation, Haiti is the place they were forced to flee from in search of a better life. So for [many of Haitian descent], visiting Haiti was often discouraged because it was the land their parents had left behind."
But for those who remain in the trenches long after the media coverage is gone, according to Darguin, Haiti will remember them as the true heroes of the recovery.