“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
I know—it isn’t a “feel good” statement, and I have to admit that I’ve struggled with the meaning of this Lilla Watson quote from the very first time I heard it. But the words have echoed in my mind every time I’ve boarded a plane en route to Brit’s Home and have been replaying on a constant loop for me, particularly in light of Haiti’s recent unrest. When I reflect on her story, I can’t help but think that Brit would have grasped the meaning of these words better than most and would undoubtedly have recognized the duty that all of us have, whose work directly affects the lives of Haiti’s people, to examine not only what we do but why we do it.
As we approach the 10th anniversary of the inception of Be Like Brit, I’d like to focus on this organization’s specific work as a part of the international aid community in Haiti and tell you the reasons I continue to choose it day after day—my “why”. I hope that in doing so, you will be compelled to share your “why”, too.
The words of Brit’s text are painted brightly on the wall to my right as I type this, a constant reminder of what started it all. To me, her words indicate that while she may have been inspired to reduce or even eradicate the poverty in the lives of the people she encountered in Haiti, that endeavor was never the bottom line for her. The first three lines of her text are spent entirely on capturing the essence of the Haitian people: their capacity to love, their unflagging willingness to work, and their ability to appreciate everything they have. I believe that in all of this, Brit saw that their dignity was worth fighting for and ultimately envisioned a Haiti in which the people she loved so much were able to stand on their own two feet, to take care of themselves, and to have the freedom to explore opportunity, creativity, leisure, family, and community. Her heart yearned not simply to help them but to move there and work with them towards this freedom. This, I believe, is the foundation on which Be Like Brit was built, and it is also the reason why I continue to choose it today.
The trials that face Haiti are not going away—and that is why leadership is so important. Far more than rank, leadership is about willing the good of the others around you—building their self-confidence and giving them opportunities to try and fail, all so that they can achieve more than they could imagine for themselves. These values are affirmed in our commitment to raising the next generations of leaders in Haiti. These values
are what permeate Brit’s Home and the children who live there, who are being loved into excellence by their caregivers and taught to recognize this dignity within themselves and within each other. These values are what will, one day, grant them not only the power to respond to the trials they face but also the confidence in their own efficacy to do so. These values are what will ultimately allow for the fostering of Haitian efforts, so that Haitians will have the opportunity to lead the resolution of their own crises.
During reflection on a trip one night back in August, one Britsionary realized something that I had honestly never thought of but have never forgotten since. “If one single text hadn’t gone through on the day of the earthquake,” she said, “maybe none of this would have happened. Do you know how rarely a text actually sends in Haiti? I haven’t had service here in three days. But Brit’s text went through that day. So…you can’t tell me that single moments don’t matter.” To this point, I believe that everyone who comes across Brit’s final text comes across it for a reason: because it sets a precedent for the rest of the world looking in that the people of Haiti are more than capable of rising and that they are more than deserving of the opportunity to do so. While I have no intention of romanticizing the struggle that the people of Haiti are currently enduring, I have now more than ever been reminded of the significance of the work that Be Like Brit does. More importantly, though, I have been reminded of why I continue to choose it, and I encourage you wholeheartedly to consider and share your “why”, too.