Looking to Haiti’s future

2 Jun 2004 | Sgt. Ryan S. Scranton

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Marines from Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment distributed supplies to a local school May 11.
The Marines delivered approximately 30 desks, 100 chairs and several tables to Escole Eu Venezuela (Venezuela School) as part of the Multinational Interim Force – Haiti’s efforts to help the struggling Caribbean nation’s youth.
“Civil affairs soldiers and Marines with Marine Air Ground Task Force- 8 conducted an assessment of the school and determined the supplies they needed,” said Lt. Col. Ernest Garcia, officer-in-charge of MIFH’s civil affairs section.
The school supply distribution is one of many civil-military operations the MIFH has conducted since former president Jean Bertrand Aristide resigned and departed the country months ago. To assist in returning the country to a state of normalcy, the MIFH has helped clean up the city’s streets, distributed food, water and medical supplies, as well as provided medical care to many Haitians throughout the country.
“We are trying to return this country to a state of normal existence, and the humanitarian assistance we are providing is a means to those ends,” Garcia said.
Bringing about a state of normalcy to the western hemisphere’s poorest nation is a daunting but not impossible task, according to Garcia.
“This country has lacked a steady cadre of professionals which has left a vacuum that was previously filled by the person with the biggest gun. But, the country is filled with capable people, proud people who have a love for their country and a lot of hope,” he explained.
The seemingly Herculean task of rebuilding the country after years of mismanagement is something to which he has seen Haitians contribute after their hope was restored by the presence of the MIFH, Garcia said.
“The Haitian National Police, local doctors, and teachers have been able to integrate into our efforts here,” Garcia explained.
Working with the interim Haitian government, local officials and community leaders, the MIFH has been able to identify and provide a solution to many basic problems the Haitian populace faced.
“When I see children going back to school, mothers getting care for their children, people drinking fresh water and people walking in the streets without fear for their safety, it is greatly satisfying,” Garcia said.
Integrating the Haitian government, nongovernmental organizations and the local communities in solving of Haiti’s problems, only makes sense according to Garcia.
“When we leave, we will turn the helm over to the Haitian government, the United Nations, Nongovernmental Organizations and the Haitian people. We were supposed to help get them up and running so when we left they could take it over,” Garcia explained. “I think we have done that, and we are continuing to do so,” he added.
The distribution of items, such as desk and chairs, to local schools has helped the MIFH accomplish its mission as well as given the service members a sense of satisfaction, according to Garcia.
“Everything that we do is a part of a bigger picture. Does distributing desks fix the entire country of Haiti? No, but combined with everything else that we have done, you can see how these things make for an improved way of life for the Haitian people,” Garcia said. “We haven’t completely fixed the problem, but we have definitely improved the situation. We are still here, and we still have work to do so that when we leave, we can say that we have accomplished the mission.”