barry headshotThe Caribbean sun beat down on my interpreter and I as we scaled the dusty hillside.

My shirt was soaked with sweat. It was six months after the devastating 2010 earthquake ravaged the city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and I had returned to the island nation to understand what life was like for the many people whose lives had been turned upside down by the disaster.

Passing a few makeshift shelters constructed out of sticks and plastic sheets, we worked our way to the top of the hill. When we finally reached the summit, I turned around to take in the view. My eyes grew wide as I realized the immensity of what lay before me. Onaville, a brand new Internally Displaced People camp, stretched out in every direction.

It was the first of many times over the following years I would return to Onaville, a place that has shaped my understanding of aid work more than any other.

I’ve watched since 2010 as large international aid organizations have set up beautiful, impressive projects in the camp, only to pull out and disappear once funding dried up. I’ve seen many short term teams enthusiastically build a house or two, then head home, leaving the families they helped still in desperate need of a job or education or healthcare.

And from that single hillside overlooking the camp, I’ve seen the promise and, ultimately, the peril, of good intentions gone awry.

I’ll be honest with you. Seeing so much harm coming out of so much well-intended work can be immensely dispiriting. Can anything really be done in a place so deeply entrenched in the cycle of poverty?

My answer, of course, is ‘yes.’ There is hope in Haiti, but it doesn’t come from glamorous international non-profits. It doesn’t come from one-size-fits-all engineering projects.

It comes from Nehemiah Vision Ministries, a humble organization with a long-term perspective. NVM has been working in Haiti since before the earthquake, and will be working there for decades to come (and now they’re putting down long-term roots in Onaville itself).

This magazine issue is all about their work. Seeing NVM grow over the last five years has changed my perspective on the world. My hope is that Brad’s stories here will change yours.


Barry Rodriguez