At the moment, my favorite idea for the capstone project is writing a fictional piece about the foreign aid catastrophe that took place after the Haiti earthquake. Honestly, I don’t know much about it aside from when it was briefly mentioned my Political Economy and Development class last semester. Apparently, after the earthquake, the U.S. did dish out a substantial amount of foreign aid money, but it went to all the wrong things. Soccer fields and cultural centers were built in areas where people lacked sanitation. A large portion of funds was sent to a city the was not directly affected by the earthquake, but which supported industries from which the US benefited.
I’m choosing fiction for this project because, unfortunately, it’s a genre I’m rarely able to use. The first time I was able to write fiction was in the gateway course when I wrote a short story about Pikachu. It was so liberating being able to write whatever I wanted, and I’m aching for a chance to feel that again. One downside of having so little experience in that type of writing is that I don’t know if I’m actually any good at it. I’ll probably have to meet with Ray and get some feedback on that… Anyway, I’ll outline the general idea I have for a plot right now.
The story will follow the lives of 2 characters: a woman working for a U.S. aid agency and a Haitian girl who survives the earthquake.
The woman will be in her late 20s or early 30s. She will be somewhat caught up in the bureaucracy of managing foreign aid and will play a part in collaborating with industries, focusing on profitable partnerships, and ultimately not feeling any emotional connection to the initiatives for which she should be advocating.
The girl will be young, maybe 7-9 years old. With her character, I want to completely deteriorate the cliché image of the suffering, malnourished, Haitian child, and invent a character full of personality, quirks, creativity- traits that make her universally lovable and relatable. I still have to remain realistic, which is why I’ll have to brush up on my knowledge of Haitian culture and avoid westernizing her for the sake of having a relatable character.
The two will meet during the aftermath of the earthquake, or perhaps even during. The woman will be visiting Haiti’s capital for business related to her agency when the earthquake hits. I’m not sure how they’ll meet, but the girl, who is more familiar with the area, will end up helping her. They’ll eventually find the girl’s family who is generous to the woman, despite their poor condition. I will spend some time talking about the destruction of health care infrastructure, and elaborate on the medical side of what went on (since I have a strong interest in medicine) As the story unravels, the woman will experience first-hand how foreign aid initiatives (that she helped work on) fail her and other survivors- something that will be unsettling and eye-opening. The story may end with her looking across the destruction, taking in the suffering- the poor living conditions, the broken infrastructure, the cholera outbreak- and feeling the true weight of the decisions she made earlier in the story. Maybe the girl will die from cholera. Is that too much? I want the story to be moving but not completely dismal.
Anyway onto the assignment:
Disciplines: history, cultural anthropology, politics, economics, business, medicine
Focal object: failure of foreign aid investments in Haiti
Confounding variable: fiction. I’ve found several non-fiction pieces on the subject, but haven’t seen much fiction writing on it. I think this genre will really help readers be able to emotionally connect with the issue.