We’re excited for you to meet Megan Malone—the newest member of the HFHF family! She is a graduate student working in Haiti with HFHF this summer. Her experience and current studies will surely provide great opportunities for our development and her own!
NOTE: Bolded parts in Megan’s post below are the editor’s emphasis.
My name is Megan Malone and I am a current graduate student at the University of Oregon Law School studying Conflict and Dispute Resolution. My focus is on international mediation—implementing peer mediation programs in elementary schools internationally, and research on the conflict that arises between humanitarian and development aid and the local communities they are trying to help. I know that is a mouthful, but as I continue to write you will get to know me a little bit better and understand some of my passions.
So, how did I get to Haiti? Warning: there is a 25 year history here condensed to a few hundred words.
I was born in the Bahamas and adopted by an American woman and a white Bahamian man. (I joke and say that I was made in Ecuador, born in the Bahamas, and grew up in America.) I did not live in the Bahamas for a long time but I traveled back and forth from the States until I was about 12. The Bahamas is a fascinating place sustained by tourism, but has huge racial issues between white and black Bahamians, especially Haitian Bahamians. Many Haitians still live in little shacks in the diminishing forests, but work in the hotels and inns on the islands.
So, fast forward about 20 years and I find myself leading a team of college students down to the Dominican Republic to work in a Haitian community for about two weeks. I had traveled a lot before that point, but I had yet to see poverty at that level. The Haitians were stuck in the Dominican Republic and the Dominican government was not doing anything to help them. This visit put Haiti back on my top list of places to go and work, but it would be another five years before I got to the other side of the island.
I got involved with Engineers Without Borders (EWB), which is a non-government organization that works in remote regions of the world to give access to clean water. The MSU chapter was working in Khwisero, the Western Province of Kenya, placing composting latrines and boreholes at 56 elementary schools. The project was proposed by a man who was born in Khwisero, and that was notable to me. I think development is a great thing, when the local communities want it. The problem EWB was running into was that the communities were not maintaining the projects, and we found that they had no investment or desire to do so. We also saw many failed projects from other international NGOs. Communities did not own their projects, and many times, the NGOs would implement a project and just leave. This left a foul taste in the communities’ mouths.
So, I have two questions in mind: How do you create community investment? How can you create trust between NGOs and communities?
In my current conflict and dispute resolution graduate program, we are all trained in basic mediation and are then able to go on to different aspects of mediation. Being able to work in Haiti is just one aspect of this that I love. I have been able to research special education and mediation, and now I am continuing work on NGOs and local communities.
I found out about Hope for Haiti Foundation from my fellow classmate and second mother, Elaine. She has taken me under her wing and helped me become successful. Elade used to work for Elaine and thought that Elade and I would immediately connect. Within one hour of speaking to him on the phone, we found we had lot in common and very similar views. So, we started planning a trip for the summer.
One of the great things about HFHF is that there is community involvement and community investment. From what I have seen, that is what makes an NGO successful.
Fortunate for me, the community and people of Zorangé have opened up their homes and hearts to me. I arrived in Port-au-Prince on July 31st and was with Elade and a few others until a couple days ago. Now, I’m on my own, but still have the support of friends like Ashley and Nasson. This past week I was able to watch the soccer tournament and get a feel for the culture of Bainet and Zorangé.
Now, my work begins.
I sat down with Tony and Ashley the other day in Bainet and they both asked many questions about how I might resolve work-related conflict, and I spoke about how I would do it and what I have studied about it. From that conversation, we decided to meet with the class presidents of the different grades, when I will speak to them about conflict and how to resolve it. I will also meet with the school staff and will discuss different aspects of conflict ranging from student-to-student conflict to staff and administration conflict.
For now I will sign off, but expect another blog post soon! I am glad that I could join the HFHF family!