December 28, 2016

Witness Haiti - An Untimely Conclusion


She's back. I know, I'd said I'd keep you posted about the Dragonfly's Haitian adventures and her mission, but things turned out otherwise. First, communication was difficult. The internet came in waves, making it difficult to have voice calls. It also appeared clear that there was a slight but real security risk of revealing where she was and what she was doing, so I refrained. Lastly, it seemed the same way for the NGO as a whole, because the organization has to deal with local politics, eager people and various interests.

In short, the situation in Haiti is complicated, for lack of a better word.

Waves of “Crisis relief” don't seem to have had a positive mid- to long-term effect on the country or its population. The poverty level is staggering, and there doesn't seem to be a simple path to mitigating it either. The presence of dozens of NGOs, whether temporary, quasi-permanent or permanent, complicates logistics, politics and attempts at structuring the backbone of a country that has been broken for a long, long time.

It seems like the population has come to a point of despaired acceptance, and that personal initiatives are rare and often deemed to failure. The underlying “humanitarian” culture brought in by international attempts at helping Haiti has created needs and channels deeply ingrained in the fabric of society, which is never a good thing. People were not meant to live in temporary shelters brought in after the 2010 earthquake, 6 years later. They weren't supposed to rely on a constant stream of distributed food and basic items after the bulk of the various catastrophes was over.

What was supposed to happen was different. Governments should have taken over the UN and Red Cross shortly after the initial traumas that shook the country. Local people and groups should have been in charge of reconstruction, helped by international materials and experts, only if needed. Local leadership should have grown from the grassroots. A general sense of purpose should have emerged out of the need to make the country stronger and better prepared for the inevitable future disasters.

Instead, local mobs rose to power. Governments gave in to corruption and complacency. Positive projects and local initiatives were ignored or remained unsupported. Unsustainability was not addressed. Empowerment didn't happen.

So it seems that what's left today is a handout culture, created in part by international aid, worsened by dysfunctional governments, rampant organized crime and millions of unkept promises.

How does one navigate such a murky situation? Can good will be transformed into positive action in a country that seems to miss its backbone? What happens when foreign projects end and the expatriates go back home? What remains in the wake of serial catastrophes when no attention is given to local empowerment and the rebuilding of society as an organized group of able, functioning humans?

These are difficult questions which one could argue are only the prerogative of those sitting on the sidelines. I can't help myself but wonder, however, what would have happened if, years ago upon the first occurrences of disasters, focus had been centered on putting the People back together, on facilitating the creation of functioning local structures and on supporting budding initiatives which empowered the communities and made them responsible for their future.

I think it's our duty as Humans, whenever we are trying to help others or improve a situation deemed unfavorable, to consider these important questions with the utmost humility, devoid of any other interest than the one of those supposed to benefit from our actions. But when those don't seem to have the will to take things over and step up to the task, or when they are so impeded that any action is doomed to fail, I'm at a complete loss as to what should or can be done.




November 24, 2016

New Horizons


Photo credit: Tyler Tomasello
As runners and Mas Locos, we’ve all had our lives changed by one, or more, trip(s) to the Copper Canyons of Mexico. The remoteness, the authenticity and the culture have charmed, inspired and taught us so much. It has made us better in many ways, and shown us the true power of Korima.

Like our friends in the Barrancas, Norawas de Raramuri has navigated many challenges as an organization. From its inception to support Micah’s dream and actions to its revival in 2012, all the way to this very day, our group has had a single driving principle: channel our friends’ financial support to our other friends in the Copper Canyons. 

Over the years, you have helped us provide tens of thousands of dollars to purchase the food vouchers awarded at every Caballo Blanco Ultra Marathon. You have supported the amazing Caballo Blanco Trail Project, which now spans all the way up and beyond the Canyon of Urique, reviving an ancestral pathway used for generations. You have contributed to the wonderful kid’s race, la Carrera De Los Caballitos, that now attracts hundreds and hundreds of happy, excited youngsters to the streets of Urique to celebrate health and running. You have supplied schools with material and supported health care intiatives, most of which I oversaw personally, in the field. As a group, as One, we can be proud of what has been achieved and of the vast movement of kindness that has reached the bottom of the Canyons.

2015 marked an important change of context for the race, for the Mas Loco runners and in no small way for the Urique community as well. Out of a tragic initial event, an idea sprouted that the local people could take over the organization of the race and see to its perenniality. This idea is empowering, beautiful, and ultimately a logic step in the life of Ultra Marathon Caballo Blanco.

In 2016, we were witness to the very first, locally-managed UMCB and it showed without any doubt how much love and dedication the Urique people have for the event. I know they are hard at work right now preparing the next one, and many of us will be running it with great enthusiasm.

This change in context has redefined many things, among which the role Norawas de Raramuri can play in the future and my personal role in the organization. We spent some time thinking about it and as the flow of events unfolded, we have come to the conclusion that it is no longer the best outlet to show our support in the Copper Canyons.

Although Norawas will issue its own official statement about how it will manage the remaining funds and see to their distribution, I wanted to take this occasion to announce I am stepping down from my role as a board member and to personally thank you, our supporters, our family. You are in the thousands. I can’t count the number of times I was told by our friends in the Canyons how much they appreciated the help of us “gringos” :) These thanks go directly, rightfully to you.

I will, of course, keep being involved with the Raramuri and the Copper Canyons through other venues and I’m committed for life to keep living Caballo Blanco’s vision of creating peace at the bottom of the canyons using the simple, humble act of running. It is also no longer a secret that I am part of a wonderful new initiative, Mas Korima, to which I will devote my time, resources and efforts to develop a direct business partnership with our Raramuri friends. It’s a bold, new idea that I strongly believe in and I want to fully devote to.

In the meantime, I personally invite you all to join us in Urique on March 6 for another celebration of beauty and connection and I also invite you to follow – and join - us in our future Copper Canyons endeavors.

Much love,

Flint


November 13, 2016

Witness Haiti - 1 - The Dragonfly Chronicles

My love is gone. I'm sitting here, basking in the irony that we've just found each other and that she left this morning half way around the world for two months.

You could say she got the call about three weeks ago to travel down to Haiti for a disaster relief mission, but the truth is, she got the call very early in life to help her fellow Human brothers and sisters. The Dragonfly has a heart of gold, and I need not to be selfish and let the world benefit from it, too.

She has gone to extend a friendly hand, and to bear witness to the People of Haiti's struggle through harsh conditions made worse by the passage of hurricane Matthew. Funny thing, to give catastrophes familiar names. Like it can make them somehow more bearable.

She's stepping into the unknown, armed with only her good will and hope.

I tried all I could to join in and help, but it seems she has to be on her own, at least for now. So we decided I'd help by supporting the witness part of her mission. For the coming eight weeks and as much as communication is possible, FlintLand will serve as her chronicle, and I as a relay for us all to learn more about the situation in Haiti, from someone on the very front line.

We burned some sage together as she was leaving, thanked each other for all the blessings we share, and hugged one last time before we are reunited again. Until then, may this journal become a link we all share.

Godspeed, my love.