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25183: Minsky: (broadcast) Remittances to Haiti -transcript of radio WNYC piece (fwd)
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[This radio piece is part of an emigrant series on public radio in New York.
Macollvie Jean-François , reporter for Haitian Times, did this piece on
remittances] http://wnyc.com/news/articles/46883 Frank McCourt introduces
MCCOURT: When we return in a minute, we'll hear from Haitian immigrants who
would like to go
home, but they're stuck, working in New York so their friends and relatives
in Haiti can survive.
You're listening to “Feet in Two Worlds” from WNYC, New York , part of
“Think Global,” public
radio's week of special coverage.
Remittances to Haiti
MCCOURT: This is Frank McCourt, and you're listening to “Feet in Two
Worlds” from WNYC, New
York Public Radio.
The ingredients of immigration don't change much. First, there's the dream
of coming to America ,
“where the streets are paved with gold.” Then there's the work, often
back-breaking but always
necessary. Work leads to money, and that's what sustains the families back
Think of it. America is a land of quiet heroes from all around the world,
but being a hero can
become a chore.
Macollvie Jean-François reports for The Haitian Times , a weekly paper in
Brooklyn . She says Haiti
's ongoing troubles keep Haitians in the U.S. chained to their homeland.
Jean-François : The flight from New York to Haiti is only three-and-a-half
hours. Jovens Moncoeur
is a twenty-seven-year-old Haitian-American. He hadn't been to Haiti since
he was three years old,
but four years ago, he decided to go for a visit, and the devastation he
saw was overwhelming.
MONCOEUR: It was like a shellshock. I have cousins that can't pay for
school. Some can't pay for a
house. Some can't go to the hospitals. Some can't event eat. Just everyday
life things that we take
for granted here, they don't have the luxury of having - electricity,
number one, proper sanitation
Jean-François : Since that first visit, Jovens became a regular customer at
the local money transfer
office in central Brooklyn , where he sends money to his extended family
back in Haiti .
MONCOEUR : People can't understand how much a little help can do for
somebody else, you know,
to get over the next day. I have aunts that sell charcoal on the side of
the road, little cousins that
shines shoes, a family that-, that are painters, that I send them paint
sets and stuff like that, paint
brushes and paint. I just want to help.
Jean-François : The desire to help is typical among Haitians. The reason
many of them came to the
United States in the first place was to earn money to support those back
(sound of taxi in Port au Prince)
Jean-François : Haiti is a beautiful country, but jobs are scarce and
corruption runs rampant. Eighty
percent of its eight million citizens live in abject poverty.
(sound of beggars asking for “ dolla Americain”)
Jean-François : When you set foot outside the airport in Port-au-Prince ,
you see scores of people
waiting outside the gates asking you for a “ dolla Americain .” Haitians in
the U. S. are compelled to
respond to that need, even as they, too, struggle to make ends meet.
Jean-François : Money transfer offices are the economic lifeline between
the Haitian Diaspora and
those that we've left back home. The most convenient place to go to make a
money transfer is at
the center of Haitian life in Brooklyn - Church Avenue .
WOMAN (IN BAKERY): …We have fried fish, we have boulé , we have white rice,
we have something
called legume , which is a Haitian delicacy …
Jean-François : Here on Church Avenue , you can find Haitian restaurants,
hair salons, street
vendors selling cooking herbs and spices, and of course, the money transfer
The future of t hese store-front businesses is uncertain. Government
efforts to crack down on the
movement of funds to support terrorism and drug trafficking are making it
harder for them to stay
in business. Even so, there are three money transfer agents on this street
After filling out a form and paying a small fee for the transfer, relatives
back home can have the
money in their hands in as little as two hours.
Ivica Dumont is twenty-nine years old, but she's been sending money back to
Haiti since she was a
teenager. She is the only source of support for her two brothers in Haiti .
DUMONT : On a monthly basis, I send four hundred dollars. That's just for-,
for the food. Right now
today I'm not sending as much. Today I'm just sending just a hundred
dollars. Two weeks ago I sent
two hundred, and now I'm sending a hundred.
Jean-François : On top of sending cash, Haitians send packages, big-ticket
items like cars and
refrigerators and barrels.
DUMONT : They just got two big barrels, where I spent like over a thousand
dollars to buy things to
send – Carnation milk, oil, juice, sugar, salt, spaghetti. Was pretty much
Jean-François : Haiti ranks at the top of countries most dependent on
remittances from overseas.
The money Haitians send home from the U. S., $1.3-billion dollars in 2003
alone, is equal to a
quarter of Haiti 's Gross Domestic Product. And that's not counting the
cash that Haitians carry with
them when they fly back home. Even so, life in Haiti keeps getting worse.
MACOLLVIE'S MOTHER: (speaking Creole)
Like many Haitians, my mom's attitude toward Haiti has changed a lot over
the years. Ten years ago
she swore she would return. She used to say in Creole, “ se la kod lonbrit
mwen ye ,” which means,
“that's where my umbilical cord is buried.”
I asked her what happened to her plans to go back.
MACOLLVIE'S MOTHER: (speaking Creole)
She told me, “I have the plans. It's the fear that I might get killed, come
nighttime. If not for that, I
would go. My house is there waiting for me, and with the winter cold, I get
sick, but I'm scared.
Most people here will go back, but they're afraid.”
Haiti does not move forward, and Haitians in the Diaspora do not, either,
because they are
constantly trying to meet the needs of those left behind. There's no
question that the money we
send in small amounts helps, but it's only temporary.
I know it pains Haitians to have to ask for help from those overseas. And
while it's tempting to say,
“Just let Haiti work out its problems,” what can you do when the phone
rings and a relative says,
"Things aren't going too well?" What can you do when they have nowhere else
This is Macollvie Jean-François, reporter for The Haitian Times .
Macollvie Jean-François is a reporter at the Haitian Times, an
English-language weekly based in
Brooklyn, New York. Born in Gonaives, Haiti she spent the early years of
her life in a quaint town
called Saint-Michel de l'Attalaye. Ms. Jean-François moved to Brooklyn when
she was 10, attended
the city's public schools and won a full scholarship to Baruch College,
from which she graduated
with a degree in business journalism in 2001. She enjoys traveling,
although doing so on a
journalist's salary means arrangements are not always the most luxurious.
Her story is called Remittances to Haiti. As one of the world's poorest
nations, Haiti relies heavily
on money that Haitians overseas send back home. Through interviews with
immigrants living in
Brooklyn , this piece shows how Haiti 's economic dependence is a constant
drag on Haitians who
are trying to build their lives in the US . Much of the piece takes place
around Church Ave. in
Brooklyn , the center of Haitian life in the New York metropolitan area.
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