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“Great Discussions” talk about issues in Haiti

February 11, 2011

Nearly twenty-five people packed into the Tartan Room on Wednesday, Feb. 9, at 7:30 p.m. to listen and discuss a dire situation not even an ocean away.

In this week’s session of Monmouth College’s “Great Discussions,” Professor Marjorie Bond led the discussion about the issues that Haiti has faced in the past leading up to the Earthquake, and what issues the country faces that have stemmed from the issues before and after the earthquake.

“In the 1950s, Haiti had a strong government,” said Bond.

Bond said that the conditions started to shift with the introduction of François Duvalier, also known as Papa Doc.

“Papa Doc was a rural doctor who was elected president, and then declared himself to be president for life,” said Bond. “He was brutal.”

After Papa Doc left office, said Bond, Haiti lacked a stable government and shifted from one leader to another.

According to Bond, the present day situations have not fared better for the country. They have been hit with not only a 7.8 earthquake, but also with a cholera outbreak in October and Hurricane Tomas.

After discussing the issues that the country faces today, the group started to discuss how the country could start building itself back up again.

“Haiti is the poorest country outside of Africa,” said professor Ira Smolensky. “One of the main problems is the lack of jobs. Another is that it’s dangerous. You need to come up with a stable government to make a stable economy [and vice versa].”

“It is not easy to get people to go back to their country if there are no prospects,” said Dean Mohsin Masood. “Haiti can get back on its feet if they have some help from the United Nations.”

Another way that Haiti could get back on its feet that was discussed was the issue of violence, particularly in women.

“40 percent of the families are run by women, but there is a lot of violence against women,” Bond said.

Smolensky added in by saying, “The literacy rate for women is very low. If there’s a lot of violence against it, people will not respect it, and this is a problem.”

Many of the students who attended said they felt they took away many lessons from this discussion.

“[I was surprised about] how many graduates they have left,” said junior Olivia Leonard when learning that 80 percent of educated Haitians leave the country. “I had no idea that there were so few!”

“[The most interesting part to me was] how a country can be destroyed,” said David Melon. “I mean, they don’t even have roads- you can’t do anything without roads!”

Ultimately, it was generally agreed in the room that the only people that could truly help themselves were the people of Haiti.

“We can go in and fix it, but they will inevitably need to help themselves. If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day; if you teach him to fish, he eats for a lifetime.”

BY REBECCA ISAACS
Contributing Writer

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