Aliens or Deportees: It depends on the perspective

I found the video below today, via Fly. It’s about Haitians deportees and their living conditions in present-day Haiti.

It made me think of this question I’ve been asking myself for a few days now. How do first-generation and “half-generation” Americans relate to their country of origin? Growing up, we’ve seen our parents’ attachment to their culture in the form of remittance, phone calls from the other side of the world in the middle of the night and lengthy letters. They’ve also made sure to instill in us a sense of pride about our “native” culture and have countlessly quizzed us about our family tree.

What about us? How do we feel connected to a land in which we no longer live? I’d say that some of us feel a stronger connection than others. For some of us, we embrace this sense of duty and responsibility to give back to those who did not have the same opportunities as us. For others of us, we feel no need to give back but only to “bloom where we are planted”.

I didn’t feel around me a sense of embrace and ownership of one’s native culture until I went away to college. It makes sense because it is during that time that many people start to put together the different parts of their adult identity. I remember meeting so many people who were for the first time (maybe) feeling empowered and equipped with skills to help people in their (or their parents’) country of origin. Guys like Patrick Awuah, the founder of Ashesi University in Ghana, were (and still are) inspirational. As volunteer programs became increasingly available and the concept of Social Entrepreneurship rose on college campuses, the desire to “return home” and contribute to Development, Empowerment and Education efforts. Many of us know family members who have ideas about starting businesses/non-profits “back home”.

As I watched this video, I couldn’t help but think about the way our ideals and good intentions often clash with the realities “on the ground”. Are we seen as insiders or outsiders? Does that, in any way hinder us from doing good or carrying out the plans or projects that we have designed? Does having lived in a developed country prepare us for life in a under-developed or developing country?

I guess it comes down to intention and purpose. The case of a Haitian-American with plans to help revitalize Haiti is bound to be different from the case of a deported Haitian-American to Haiti.

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