The Little Engine of NGO

Every morning in Haiti we fought to get our car started.  A little black Kia, capable of climbing some seriously steep Port-au-Prince streets, started, stalled, started and stalled again.  If we revved the engine it would eventually, after a good twenty tries, reluctantly fight its way to life.

Interestingly, the Creole word for “car” is “machin,” but in Haiti machines rarely ran as they should either.  There always seemed to be a mechanism amiss.  In Haiti, little seemed to happen as we would expect, living in places with  semi-functioning economies and well-established infra-structure, what it takes to keep the engine of government going.

Nothing came easily in Haiti.  Poverty bred more poverty, pain, ever more painful realities.

Life was hard for us as expats, but truly excruciating for those left homeless by the earthquake, those who survived only to be tented and tarped across a sad, sad city.

While we were there, Sara worked as if her own life were hanging in the balance—her own soul’s survival dependent on the effort.  Few will ever know the endless hours she and her team worked—fighting fires on every front, every effort frustrated by riots, hurricanes, cholera, diesel shortages, and a tiny but powerful Haitian elite whose privileged way of life depended on the suffering of a million others.  Sometimes we were without water, daily without electricity.

However, pulled from Haiti prematurely due to funding shortfalls, forced to leave when we had sown so much and reaped so very little, Sara still hopes those mountains of rubble in Port-au-Prince will one day be built into something resembling actual and substantial progress—that someday the massive planting that’s been done by NGOs for generations in Haiti will reap a harvest that will feed the hungry camped still in Port-au-Prince streets, in parks, golf courses, outside the National Palace.

We were reminded of this last night over dinner with colleagues of Sara’s passing through town—that the massive amount she sowed in Haiti, may still be reaped, maybe even in Sara’s own efforts to establish an NGO of her own.  (To read a post about this non-profit/NGO, click here.)

In the few months we’ve been home from Haiti, Sara has literally planted her own garden in our backyard, worked out in the dirt the birth of another effort.  And just as we are finally beginning to reap the literal harvest of this local toil in the soil, perhaps, soon the effort sown in Haiti will also bear fruit.

tomato ripening in Sara's garden

zinnias thriving

a single daisy blooming

And even though it seemed in Haiti one rarely reaped what was sown—that the engines of effort rarely ran smoothly—we are hoping some of the energy Sara and her team exerted on the rocky, hillside soil of Port-au-Prince will soon be harvested by the people of Haiti, and if not there, then in the next country where we work.

Our little car in Haiti may have struggled to start, but here in Kentucky our big blue truck roars to life even after months of sitting still.  Maybe that bodes well for this next NGO enterprise, Sara’s hope to build sustainable hospitals in other vulnerable countries.

And maybe some of this construction will even occur in Haiti itself, where next time we’ll drive a Kia equally able to handle the Port-au-Prince hillsides, but more able to sustain itself once started.

The little NGO that could—

the little engine of NGO

I think I can . . . I think I can . . .

20 thoughts on “The Little Engine of NGO

  1. I think that you two have planted seeds wherever you go, and although it may take a long time for those seeds to blossom they will indeed bloom into a better world. If more people were like you, putting heart and soul into giving and helping rather than filling their own wallets and desires, the earth would be a much better place. Here’s to sustainable hospitals and a better world.


    • I’m so glad you like the photos! And I’m pleased you appreciate my thoughts. Thanks so much for takng the time to read and comment. It’s great to hear from you! Hope you’re having a relaxing Wednesday!


  2. “The Little Engine That Could” was one of my favourite childhood books! Thanks for the memories!

    I’m so happy Sara is able to have a garden (and jealous that she has tomatoes ripening already – I have blossoms on some!).

    Hopefully all the NGOs’ work in Haiti will be successful someday!



  3. Nice post! Thought provoking. Even though Sara’s work in Haiti was not finished before you left, you and Sara would have impacted the local community in 1000 different little ways. Which I am sure they appreciated, and will remember for years to come. “Wonder if that crazy little lady is going to come back again sometime . . . ?” Only kidding! 😉

    PS: If you haven’t already seen it, Wyrdsmyth left a response to your comment.


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