PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – A cruise ship may soon call at Port-Au-Prince, the first such visit in Haiti after a quarter of a century, a milestone that Minister of the Interior Thierry Mayard-Paul welcomed Friday at a gathering in Tuscaloosa, Alabama with the organizers of the cruise that combines tourism with volunteer work, seeing this as another instance of sustainable development for the Caribbean nation’s economy, “breathing new life” into the tourism sector.
“Haiti is at a turning point as a nation,” Mr. Mayard-Paul said at the retreat of Praisefest Ministries, which throughout the year organizes “Cruise with a Cause,” a series of Mission Cruises transporting volunteer workers to various places that are in need of support. Praisefest Ministries is looking into taking their experience to Haiti via a 4,000 person Cruise with a Cause in 2013. The passengers on this cruise would participate in projects that include building homes, repairing schools, and installing new water purification systems throughout Port-au-Prince.
“When you sail into Port-au-Prince, my friends, you will be making history,” the minister said. “Yours will be the first cruise ship to visit our capital in a quarter of a century: This will be a milestone to remember, so let me thank you now for breathing new life into our tourism sector.”
The Government of Haiti has made this project a priority and is diligently working to evaluate and prepare the port in the capital city of Port-au-Prince for the cruise ship’s arrival, said Mr. Mayard-Paul, one of the chief architects of President Michel Martelly’s policy for job-creation and economic progress through local initiatives and decentralized cooperation.
Praisefest Ministries, the non-profit group that organizes Cruises with a Cause, include pastors and church representatives that give the group access to millions of homes and over 60,000 churches, with members willing to get involved with work in Haiti and the potential that they may return to the Caribbean nation in future cruises and visits.
“The goal here is to get these organizations to adopt the communities they serve in. They will continue to resource and help develop these communities in the years ahead,” stated Dr. Matthew Dunaway of Praisefest Cruise with a Cause.
Tourism, one of the strongest and growing industries in the Caribbean, is a key to this plan’s success in a country naturally endowed with paradisaical beaches and a people renowned for their hospitality. Dr. Dunaway recognizes the potential tourism has in Haiti’s economic development, “We will continue to bring these efforts to Haiti setting the stage for tourism in the future to bring income.”
“Haitian men and women are not looking for a hand out, but for a hand up… and this is what you will be bringing to Haiti, a powerful and loving hand up,” Mr. Mayard-Paul told the Praisefest Ministries gathering.
During his visit to Alabama, Mr. Mayard-Paul with over 100 representatives from dozens of churches in the United States to discuss the potential and the opportunity that the arrival of the cruise ship would represent to his country.
He is also highlighting the benefit that this kind of organization provides to countries such as his own that are looking to change their economy from sustaining to sustainable. Mr. Mayard-Paul said the administration’s plan for Haiti’s development is based on laying out the framework for the country’s economy to take off on its own, as it progresses in its reconstruction efforts after the January 2010 earthquake.
He invoked the proverb that says, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Give a man a fishing pole and teach him to fish, and he can feed himself and others for a lifetime.”
That was the difference, Mr. Mayard-Paul said, between the cooperation-based initiative of Cruise with a Cause by Praisefest Ministries and that of other agencies or non-governmental organizations, that “do their work and then they leave.”
“What you are doing is more powerful… It is people to people, and what you bring to Haiti will endure,” he said, addressing the Praisefest Ministries’ leaders and members.