There is that old saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." In the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, the refrain can now be adapted to read, "It takes the entire diaspora to reconstruct a country." And the members of the Haitian diaspora are not only responsive to the needs in their country, but eager to assist when called upon.
Last evening, WNYC Radio hosted Haiti's Future: New York City Speaks, a summit with elected officials, economic and media experts, community activists, and everyday Haitian-Americans engaged in a dialogue about the earthquake's impact from Haiti to New York City and beyond. WriteTalkListen, a production company based in the United Kingdom, convened representatives from United Haitians in the United Kingdom to watch the webcast and contribute commentary throughout the evening via Skype.
According to Gary Pierre-Pierre, editor of the Haitian Times who served as co-moderator of the summit, there are approximately 500,000 Haitians and Haitian-Americans in the tri-state area, given the unofficial headcount. This is almost twice the official number listed by the Census Bureau. While Haiti may have been considered 'invisible' prior to the earthquake, the events of the past month have brought Haiti to the fore.
Rose Pierre-Louis, Deputy Manhattan Borough President and the highest ranking Haitian-American elected official in New York City, was one of the panelists. Ms. Pierre-Louis pointed to the role of the media in the coverage of Haiti (post-quake), and suggested that enough emphasis must be placed on rebuilding the "brand" of Haiti, as is placed on urban design.
The summit identified areas to be addressed in the reconstruction process - among them physical infrastructure; financial systems (micro lending versus commercial banks); displaced children; and medical structure with a focus on mental health services in a culture that previously did not look favorably on this issue. Ms. Pierre-Louis indicated that she will be compiling a database for individuals willing to assist.