Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Laughter to Guilt to Progress (Colleen McLaughlin,

By. Colleen McLaughin, IJDH Volunteer Consultant

Laughter to Guilt to Progress

We make fun of each other.  It is what we do in life, to show our love, to show a familiarity.  It is how Irish Catholic families pass on their traditions of storytelling and guilt at the same time.  I love sparring with my brother Michael (who alternately works for the senator, city, quasi-governmental organization or congressman) he LOVES the debate game and laughter through a good argument and baiting us all into his web of expert thinking. He asks good questions, sometimes to lead us to his conclusions and sometimes to ask good questions.

He loves the inside joke that some of us don’t follow and is an incredibly generous soul.  I thought he was making fun of me on a trip to Haiti and I laid into him about how he would feel if his wife and  lovely daughters were living in an inadequate tent with rain pouring through the shitty USAID tarp.  I was too close to the situation to see his humor and maybe too close now to laugh.  I thought I guilted him into giving to Haiti. I don’t want to guilt anyone to giving to Haiti.  I will take guilt money, but it is not a tradition I want to continue. In truth, he had already given and gave again after our email exchange. He gave because it was the right thing to do.  He says that if he donated every time I was mad at him he would be broke, but the world would be better for it.

I  am constantly inspired to do more work with Haitians, for Haitian and around Haiti.  That is the truth.  Everyone keeps asking me if I am going to Japan.  Partly to make fun of me, partly to understand why I keep going back to Haiti and I think partly because people don’t know what to say to get to those smart questions.

I am amazed by the progress made on the ground.

Amazed that the small groups of people working in partnership with Haitians is helping.

Amazed.  I didn’t know or really put much hope into large scale change.  It feels like you can’t expect too much with post traumatic stress.

But, large scale change is happening. Or more accurately highly dedicated courageous souls are pushing ahead with strategies that make large scale change a reality.

Mario Joesph inspired us to think though larger strategy beyond enforcing individual rights.  Brian Concannon asked us to think about international law and how that could and should advance the human rights agenda in Haiti and Beyond.  Lisa Davis taught us to use hard hitting and blunt language to shape the severity of the debate so people would take notice, right now she is framing the Rape Epidemic in Haiti.  Blaine Bookey continually strategized to get the right people in front of the right audiences to ask real questions and then maybe later share a cap full.  Malya Villard-Apollon of KOFAVIV reminds us to think big, to believe in oneself, to lead and lead and continue to lead. Others at Center for Constitutional Rights, the BAI, IJDH, The Goldin Institute and all their funding partners are continually adding to the work, discourse and strategy.

This is a unique coalition of talented souls.  Amazingly talented.

They have pushed beyond the barriers and moved through interviewing victims, attending meetings, creating strategy, crafting press releases, writing reports, inviting media, preparing petitions, winning judgments and shaping international human rights.

Where it really matters is on the ground in Haiti.  Haitians are fighting for their human rights, for housing rights, election rights and freedom from rape and murder.

They are standing up and FIGHTING FOR A PLACE TO LIVE.  Landowners are trying to forcibly evict Haitians living in tents.  Haitians are waving the precautionary measures  won in the Inter-American Court  to armed guards.  Armed Guards.  Big Machine Gun Carrying Armed Guards.  Waving a piece of paper.  To a guy carrying a gun.  Imagine that courage.  And it is working.  Haitians have rights.  They are standing up for their rights.  Standing up for their rights to landowners.  Standing up for their rights to Haitian Ministry Officials.  Standing up for their rights to the United Nations.

Imagine living in a tent.  Then imagine having the strength to do this.  This is incredible.  Almost unimaginable.   If I was living in a tent I don’t think I would have 1/10 the courage and strength.  This is how the world changes.  Individual human rights, right to a free and fair election, right to ask the United Nations to stop the occupation of Haiti, right to ask the US to stop the crazy manipulation of  former Haitian presidents, Haitian elections and policy, right to create their country as they see it, not as a pawn in a global game.  This is it.

Over the last twenty years I have been involved and donated to many nonprofits. Without a doubt this is the most meaningful and most important work I have done.  I am proud of every hour and penny donated.  I know all my work,  efforts and donations are part of a  larger whole.  I am fortunate to work with such dedicated souls.  It is my privilege to be part of a group that is advocating for human rights. I have dedicated 10% of my earnings  and 20% of my time this year to go to advancing basic human rights in Haiti.  Join me.   Learn More.  Get involved. Think.   Give to or or

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