Bertrhude Albert had good intentions, but things didn’t go as she planned.
A year after the devastating 2010 earthquake in her native Haiti, Albert, who, at the time was a sophomore at the University of Florida, went down to her homeland to offer help during a spring break trip.
Along with roommate Priscilla Zelaya, she helped bring 400 pounds of clothes and other supplies to help people in a nation still suffering from the effects of the earthquake, and at the end of the week, they met with community leaders to chat about the work they had done.
Shockingly, the feedback provided was not what Albert was expecting to hear.
“Deep down, I know there was an element of trying to get a pat on the back,” Albert said. “That’s when they completely blew me away with their response.”
What the community leaders essentially told Albert and Zelaya was this: Thanks for your efforts and compassion, but you actually did more harm than good.
All the clothes and supplies handed out was detrimental to the local merchants, who couldn’t compete. Their businesses and sources of income were essentially ruined for a short period of time.
Albert came to find out that one woman who had five kids relied on the sale of her clothes to feed her family, and other merchants experienced similar strife.