It is recommended that you do not photograph Haitians without their express permission. There are many beautiful and compelling scenes you will encounter, but it is important that you not make anyone feel exploited. Haitians know very well that their living conditions are not what ours are and taking photos of scenes my feel exploitive to those you photograph.
The children love to have their photos taken. Take care with your camera, they will want to see the photo and will ask to use the camera. DO NOT feel obliged to do so and you do so at your own risk. PLEASE be aware where your belongings are and keep them safe. Expensive cameras and cell phones are a target. Be discreet, be prudent and careful.
b. Cultural Perceptions
It is common to be called “blan” (white), which actually signifies foreigner to a Haitian, it is not a racial remark. Senior men and women usually engender respect from the Haitians as elders are revered in their own tradition. They have rich experience and knowledge to share, which can be a source of great gratification.
Culture shock can take many forms. The classic process is: (1) “The Honeymoon,” where you just love Haiti and everything about it; (2) “The Fall,” when certain aspects of the culture begin to bother you and you cannot reconcile your reactions; (3) “Bottom Out,” when experiences and observations become upsetting enough to tempt you to leave; and (4) “Refractory Period,” when you regain perspective and optimism.
Lack of privacy, as you become a visible focus for many Haitians may cause unexpected stress. It will be difficult at times to be polite, patient and noncritical. Some ways to handle culture shock are to be forgiving and kind to yourself, and to talk about your daily experiences with acquaintances, at team meetings and to keep a journal.
Keep in mind that travel is one of the best ways to learn about the world and the different people in it. By visiting foreign countries we are introduced to ways of life that are far different from what we are used to. It is an experience that can enlighten and thrill, and it can cause us to look at our own lives from a new perspective. What we want for our teams is an attempt to experience a different culture in a way that is respectful, sensitive and open to new experiences. The cultural considerations listed below embody the nature of transformational travel and we hope you will take this Code of Ethics to heart.
Code of Ethics for Travelers
- Travel in a spirit of humility and with a genuine desire to meet and talk to the local people.
- Be aware of the feelings of other people, thus preventing what might be perceived as offensive behavior.Remember this especially with photography.
- Cultivate the habit of listening and observing rather that merely hearing and seeing.
- Realize that people in the country you visit often have time concepts and thought patterns different fromyour own. Not inferior, just different.
- Discover the richness that comes from seeing another way of life, rather than looking for the “beach paradise” of the tourist posters.
- Acquaint yourself with the local customs. Respect local customs; people will be happy to help you.
- Cultivate the habit of asking questions instead of knowing all the answers.
- Remember, you are one of many visiting tourists. Do not expect special privileges.
- Spend wisely, shop responsibly. Remember that the bargain you obtain is only possible because of low wages paid to the maker. Ask yourself what is fair.
- Make no promises to local people unless you are certain, and prepared, to fulfill them.
- Reflect daily on your experiences; seek to deepen your understanding. Keep in mind that what enriches you may rob or violate others.
Code of Ethics for Travelers, developed by the Christian Conference of Asia.
c. Requests for Financial Support and Money
In general, Haitians are friendly toward foreigners. The people of Haiti, however; have many needs and you will encounter begging and as you develop friendships you may be asked for financial support for education or personal needs. It is painful and difficult, but you cannot help everyone and sometimes helping one person can lead to more requests or problems for someone else. It is very clear to those that work with us that this is not allowed as it makes people feel very uncomfortable.
Please keep in mind:
- Your primary gift to the people of Haiti is your service and it is deeply appreciated.
- BEM does not encourage or allow gifts, cash or otherwise. Feel free to say it is against team rules to do so.
- Specific needs/requests you feel strongly about should be brought to the Team Leader(s). If appropriate, it will be handled by the team through Pastor Beaucejour.
- If you wish to leave clothing, shoes or other items, they can be left at the guesthouse with instructions with Pastor Beaucejour, or he can get items to the those who need it the most, he knows those needs better than we do.
- Giving money can be extremely dangerous to you or the person you are trying to help and we strongly urge you not to do this. Showing that you have cash puts you and everyone around you at considerable risk.
- BEM hopes to help Haitians help themselves by giving them the tools they need to do for themselves, not by giving handouts.
- We do not want to promote or encourage begging, hoping rather to encourage that which promotes self-esteem and empowerment.
It is always tempting for visitors to think that it would be great to distribute toys and/or candy to the children but we do not encourage this. Our concerns are for security in that you may run out of the items and this can be upsetting to people who have so little. Unless it is a controlled setting, and the Team Leader is aware of your intentions, please do not give anything away. If it is not safe or we do not have enough of an item for every child present, the “gifts” will be left with the pastor to be distributed at a later time.
It is imperative that you do not, under any circumstances, give money or gifts to Haitian staff or neighboring residents. Doing so has the potential to create problems with other staff or worse a very dangerous situation in the community, so we ask that you understand and respect this rule. We take very good care of those who work for us, hoping to empower and enable. It is also recommended that you keep your money and valuables hidden, safe at all times and do not leave it unattended or out of sight.
Tips (and sometimes team gifts) will be handled by the Team Leader ONLY. This ensures equal distribution and understanding that it comes from the entire team.