Deacon Moynihan worries about Haiti’s future

GREENVILLE—Deacon Patrick Moynihan’s mission to help the people of Haiti has taken on an added direction in the almost two years since the island nation was devastated by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake.
Now, Moynihan said, Haiti faces the threat of being turned into a refugee nation by the very aid agencies that are supposed to help the people.
“We need for people to be able to prosper here,” he said during a telephone interview Oct. 7 as he drove from Miami en route to the Upstate, where he was slated to visit St. Francis Church in Clemson.
Since the earthquake of 2010, he said, “there is a social degradation, and people are becoming stagnant.”
Moynihan, director of The Louverture Cleary School in Haiti (, blames relief organizations such as the International Red Cross, which he said are good at maintaining camps and caring for basic needs such as food and shelter, but which have no mechanism for transitioning from a basic-care mode.
“We’ve still gotta have it (aid),” he said. “Of course, we have to have it to do reconstruction. But we need to constructively build a social structure as well.”
The message blends the educational work Moynihan was doing with the Haitian Project prior to the earthquake with his new concerns that the progress in developing social services such as free education could be threatened by creating reliance on emergency aid.
Moynihan likened the situation facing Haitians to the story of a little girl standing on a beach, trying to save the hundreds of starfish washed up on the sand by throwing each one back into the ocean.
He said the mentality among aid agencies has been to “bring in technology so the starfish can live better on the beach — even breathe on the beach,” he said.
Now, he said, the aid agencies are reluctant to “turn the reins” over to the Haitian government.
“Their mantra is that the government is corrupt,” he said. Aid agencies “are good at running camps until they die. That’s not appropriate.”
As for the government, which has a long history of unscrupulous leadership, Moynihan said “it is what it is.”
“You have to develop the competencies (within the nation) to deal with it,” he said. “The world has the money and wants to help Haiti, and it turns the money over to the (non-government organizations) and they say ‘we can’t do anything,’ and then they blame the world.”
Relief efforts have also come under attack in the media, but Moynihan said the response from other governments has helped the nation’s economy.
Unlike many of the other charities at work in Haiti, Moynihan said the efforts of the Catholic Church, based in doctrine, are helping not only to rebuild, but to build a social infrastructure.
“We’re not going to sit by,” he said. “We’re going to fight for the people by putting the resources behind the right people in Haiti.”
He said when it comes to transitioning from emergency care to rebuilding, the Catholic Church and its relief services are “brilliant.”
“They don’t switch,” he explained. “They have both operations at the same time. They meet the immediate needs, yes, but we also know that concurrently we need to build an emphasis on social structures.
“With international NGOs, they get stuck.”
The Diocese of  Charleston has been very generous to the Haitian Project over the years, Moynihan said, and it’s important for Catholics in the Palmetto State to know their donations are working for betterment of the country.
He said the school the project supports has been about one-third rebuilt, and in the aftermath of the earthquake, his students have been able to contribute to other residents in a number of ways.
“Our students have been out doing direct service,” he said. “They’ve been translating for doctors, they’ve been passing out resources to the people. They were able to do that through” the support of the Catholic Church.
“What you receive for free, you give for free,” he said.
Above all, he said Catholics outside of Haiti should not be discouraged by some reports coming from the country.
“Keep funding us,” Moynihan said, “even when you’ve heard about the tremendous amount of money that’s been put into Haiti that’s not being spent. All our money is being spent.”