HN Issue 17: Haiti: The Danger of a Single Story


One of my favourite TED talks is by Chimamande Ngozi Adichie entitled: The Danger of a Single Story".

Ngozi is a brilliant author and storyteller. In this talk, she her talk, she powerfully highlights that all of us, regardless of race or geography, can all fall into the trap of universalizing a single story about a people and a culture. The reality is, however, that we’re all made up of many layers. Focusing on a single story diminishes who we are to something very simplistic and damaging.

Currently, I’m in Haiti with our Food for the Hungry (FH) staff. Of all the countries I have visited, the danger to tell a single story about Haiti is highest. Take a moment and think about the narratives we share about Haiti. Do we define it by the Earthquake of 2010? The corruption and instability in government? The high levels of crime? Orphanages? But in reality, Haiti, like every other nation, is a very complex place.

While my perspective is still limited, I’m enjoying how this particular story is unfolding, and how new chapters are being added to my book of understanding. Yesterday, when I was visiting Cachiman, a community supported by FH Canada and partners, I found my appreciation for rural Haitian families deepening. 

The story I will now tell about Haiti has changed. Instead of devastation, I see resilience, perseverance, hard work, and determination. Instead of orphans, I see a father harvesting and selling his home-grown leeks so he can provide for his children. Instead of crime, I see a proud school director highlighting the education taking place in his new school building. Instead of starvation, I see triumph on a lead farmer’s face as he shows off the farmer training school and explains to me the proper way to grow carrots, spinach, and other vegetables. I learn that these vegetables are the first of their kind grown in the community - people have moved from being purchasers to being producers. 

Food for the Hungry is about the business of transformation. 

They are committed to walking out that transformation alongside rural farmers, health care trainers, educators, savings groups members, and so many others in Haiti. 

And FH is also committed to transforming the “single story” about poverty that we often tell in North America; to walk alongside us in the unravelling of that single story into a much more complex, multi-dimensional, dynamic, and wondrous paradigm.

Melissa Giles is the Director of Programs for MCC BC. She wrote this article while serving as the FH Canada Training Manager. Melissa has extensive fieldwork experience in West Africa and is passionate about smart development and poverty education.



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Food for the Hungry: HN Issue 17: Haiti: The Danger of a Single Story
HN Issue 17: Haiti: The Danger of a Single Story
Food for the Hungry
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