Two of the recurring issues in Haiti is figuring out a way to make humanitarian aid more efficient and to improve media images of Haiti. As most Haitians know, the two are linked because aide workers from abroad often have to present Haiti in as dire straits as possible in order to get the funding they need for their projects. In so doing, they divert attention from the more attractive areas/aspects of Haiti thereby decreasing tourist interest, not to mention prospective investment by businesses. There’s no easy solution for this problem, but one possible place to start is possibly enlisting foundations to provide media training for aide organizations, and also for their own program officers so that they can get a better handle of how to do good work without necessarily making communities look so bad.
Take this youtube video for the Clean Haiti Project by Clean The World
Clean The World is a project that distributes unused hotel soaps to countries in need of soap. It’s an interesting concept and one that I imagine will flourish for a period of time. However, the video is unrelenting in its portrayal of Haitian agony, and overly skewed to turn an obvious thought, soap is useful, to a grand project. The narrator relishes in Harriet Beecher Stowesque sentimentality to convince the viewer that he’s doing a worthwhile task. Rather than paint a broader picture of Cap Haitien and show how Clean The World may, for example, play a part in Haitians getting what they really want and need, i.e. jobs, he’s unrelenting in producing a stream of images about Haitian pathology that he brings himself to tears. It’s unclear whether the tears are to symbolize how impassioned he is about his work, or that the images are so repetitive they’ve brought him to tears.
What I would suggest to Mr Mowry is to recreate this video into one that is a more holistic portrait of what he saw in Cap Haitien, the warm greetings he received from his hosts, the delicious meals, the breathtaking views one encounters–present the disparities that exist within Haiti and let them speak for themselves rather than trying to drown American audiences in a vision of a world worst than their own.