Degage

This post illustrates so well my favorite trait of the Haitian people: resiliency. No one in Charye had a shovel, yet that didn’t stop them from digging and finding the drill bit.

I have seen this over and over in the people of Haiti, they are resilient. I have watched a mother grieve the loss of her baby with grace and dignity in spite of her utter lack. Lack of support, lack of sympathy from the hospital staff and lack of resources. I have seen women move on gracefully after the unnecessary loss of their unborn baby.  A baby lost to bad ultrasound equipment and lack of education. I have seen mothers fight for survival for themselves and their families. Yet each day they begin again as if they have forgotten the difficulties and sorrows of yesterday and are ready to face, better yet embrace, a new day. Haitian women are models of resiliency. They gracefully display a trait that many of us living in the first world have never truly experienced. The extent of my resiliency is coping with 1 bar of service on my phone, 24 hours without AC, or a restaurant that has run out of Diet Coke. When I cope in these situations I am proud, so proud, of my ability to adapt in tough situations.

Part of this resilience is an ability to cope, survive, and even thrive when in lack.  I look at situations and just shake my head in awe watching the people of Haiti degage, “make do”. Motorcycle repairs, electrical wires, ladders, and the creative use of black plastic shopping bags are all beautiful displays of how the people of Haiti degage, “make do or figure it out”. We once talked to a family about starting a business. They wanted to sell rice and beans in the marketplace and we were discussing the basic economics of the idea- how much will it cost you and how much profit will you make? It turned out after they sold an entire $100 bag of beans they would essentially break even, or possibly make a few Haitian dollars (less than $1 US). We thought they would abandon the idea completely, they didn’t. Instead the woman said, “But I will also have a new sack.” The empty rice sack was part of the profit, think of all she could do with that sack!

The kids in Haiti are raised with the concept of degage, it’s their way of life. The boys make cars out of empty juice bottles with wheels made of bottle caps. They also make ingenious kites using just little sticks, black plastic shopping bags, and various bits of garbage for the tail. I have seen these all over, and they are always made of the black bags so although they fly very well, they are not pretty but serve the purpose of keeping the kids entertained for hours.

But one time we were driving through Port au Prince and saw a different scene. A little girl had made her kite from a scrap of pink plastic and it was flying high against a beautiful blue sky. She was standing in the midst of utter chaos: earthquake rubble, tin-roofed shacks with tangles of electrical wires overhead, garbage strewn on the street and more people than you have ever seen in such a small space. Yet, with her hair all braided with pretty bows and her big smile, she could have been at the most beautiful park in the world. One of my team members commented, “That’s what I love about Haiti- beauty in chaos.”

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