“Unprecedented amounts of money have been pledged to Haitian relief in the last few months. American households have given over $1 billion and in March, 120 countries pledged over $9 billion(!) to rebuild. The only problem is that – historically – blanketing a country in aid and money has never really worked so well. Is there a chance this time things could be different?”

In this episode This American Life seeks to understand what is happening in Haiti: why aid money seems frozen and what is needed to make sure that once released, every Haitian, rich, poor, urban, or rural, will benefit.

Broken into four main parts, their call for action could have been taken from Real Medicine’s mission statement: the need for capacity building with a long-term focus.

Based on our founding principals of staying to support long term growth and our successful track record of training and hiring local staff to create sustainable systems, capacity building is something Real Medicine not only believes in but it is something that we do. In fact, it is part of what we are doing in Haiti today: paying the salaries of local staff so that local people are employed in the greater task of helping their neighbors.

Our hope, like that of This American Life, is that world leaders will choose to support local efforts and plans for local capacity building. After so many years of failed attempts to help Haiti, attempts that have in fact made things worse even before the quake, it seems time to take the road less traveled, long as it may be, and to use the aid money supplied by the people of the world to give the people of Haiti a real lasting chance.

Listen: Island Time

Find out about Real Medicine Haiti

Island Time:


Four months after the earthquake in Haiti, Ira Glass talks to Haitian reporter Joseph-Romuald Felix while Romuald tours a tent camp in the Petionville suburb of Port au Prince. Romuald talks to four children — two of them have eaten this day, two have not. Nan Buzard, who heads the American Red Cross effort in Haiti, tells Ira that relief agencies have to walk a thin line between helping too little and helping too much.

Act One. 10,000 Brainiacs.

Adam Davidson and Chana Joffe-Walt from Planet Money follow one Haitian farmer, with the modest crop of two mango trees, through a byzantine system of aid agencies, NGOs, and government bureaucracy as the farmer tries the impossible — to get some plastic milk crates to store and transport her mangoes. Planet Money is a co-production with NPR News. Check out their blog and podcast. (25 minutes)

Song: “Machann Mango”, El Manicero

Act Two. Compound Fracture.

Apricot Irving grew up on a missionary compound in Limbe, in the north of Haiti, and visits the missionary hospital there. It’s pretty well stocked and staffed but, oddly, kind of a ghost town. Meanwhile, a rural Haitian-run clinic 5 miles away, without anywhere near the resources of the missionary hospital, is packed with people. Apricot spends time with the American doctor who used to head the missionary hospital but left in order to help foster a “new” Haiti at the Haitian-run clinic. Apricot Irving is writing a memoir about her experiences growing up on the missionary compound. She’s currently looking for a publisher. (13 minutes)

Act Three. Haiti is Destiny.

Short story writer Ben Fountain tours Port au Prince with his best friend — one of the few eye doctors in the country — and glimpses a cautionary future for us all. Ben Fountain is the author of the short story collection Brief Encounters with Che Guevera.

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