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Why help Haiti when America has problems of its own? (by Dr. Robert Ferreira)

Why help Haiti when America has problems of its own?

As one of the co-founders of People For Haiti, I get this type of question not infrequently.   Please allow me to share my opinion.

The people in Haiti, like other places in the world, by no fault of their own, need help.  Eighty percent of the population in Haiti is in poverty and thirty percent in abject poverty.   Their only “mistake” was to be born on the wrong continent.  As to this writing, I have been to Haiti seven times.  I have seen the desperation on their faces.  I have seen the filth they live in.  I have treated children with open, oozing sores on their bodies because they are homeless, sleep on the ground and are being bitten by insects every night.   Because they are not Americans I should turn a blind eye?  As I see the pleading look on a mother’s face as she bring her sick child to me, I should turn my back because she does not speak my language?  I should “save” my help for people who were born on the “right” continent?

Ponder this:  Whose act of kindness is greater – someone who gives or helps a person in need because they feel some type of connection (like living on the same continent) or someone who gives or helps a complete stranger without any prejudice of where that person was born?

One of the great things about being American is the freedoms we enjoy.   Even if you don’t pay your taxes, even if you are homeless, in America, you can wander into the nearest ER and get state-of-the-art medical care – for free.   People in other countries do not have that luxury.  Actually it is not free.  We, other Americans, pay for that right to medical care.  So, in a way, we are all giving to our fellow Americans.

Yes, I give of my time, expertise and thousands of dollars per year to providing medical care to people in Haiti.  But it is unfortunate that that one aspect is all someone from the outside would see.   Like most of the people I know who serve God’s children in other countries, we serve EVERYONE.   I have patients in my practice that have been with me for 10 years and then lose their insurance.   I down-code to my lowest code – about $31 for services that I would normally charge $130 to $180.  This is a DAILY occurrence (especially in this economy).   I give to Americans EVERY DAY.

Do we have need in our own country?  Yes.   Are there poor in America who need help?  Yes.   Are there the same in other countries who do not have the infrastructure like we have?  Yes.  Should we “discriminate” against them because they are not American?  Absolutely Not.  As Americans, we have to be above that.  We have to show the world the love we have as a people – not as government or a specific religion or with some political agenda.   Americans help people whoever they are, wherever they are.  We help them because it is the right thing to do.  We help those in need wherever we find them.  That is our privilege and obligation.  If they do not live in America, that’s OK.  We help Americans too.

Robert Ferreira, MD

Co-Founder, People For Haiti

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