haiti: the aid dilemma

FEATURED LESSON PLAN: Prioritizing Relief Efforts in Haiti



In this lesson, students will watch the video Haiti: The Aid Dilemma and consider how the earthquake crisis affected the traditional system of supply and demand in Haiti’s rice economy. In addition, students will assume the practical role of a harbor master to determine which ships will enter the port. This activity will require students to prioritize the forms of aid that would best serve Haiti’s short- and long-term needs. For more background on the January 2010 earthquake and relief and recovery efforts, please see the Related Resources section.


Subject Area:

Economics, Government, Political Science, Current Events, Global Studies


Grade Level:

Grades 10-12



    The student will:
  • Define key terms related to this lesson
  • Outline the functions of each level of the rice industry’s supply-and-demand chain in Haiti
  • Explain the relationships between each level of the rice industry’s supply-and-demand chain both before and after the January 2010 earthquake
  • Prioritize the forms of aid that best serve Haiti’s short- and long-term needs through the “Who Will Enter the Port?” activity


Estimated Time Needed:

Two 50-minute class periods, plus homework time


Materials Needed:




Homework Preparation:

For homework the night before this lesson, ask students to define the following key terms:

  • Emergency aid
  • Sustainable recovery
  • Wholesale
  • Retail
  • Aid dependency
  • Supply
  • Demand
  • Haiti
  • Port-au-Prince
  • Cap Haitien


Opening Activity:

    Ask students to recall what their thoughts and their feelings were when they first heard about the earthquake striking haiti: the aid dilemma in January 2010. Select volunteers to share recollections, facts, statistics and events they remember seeing through news coverage or other sources.

  • Begin the lesson by writing the word “Haiti” on the board. Ask students to brainstorm associations with that nation and list them underneath. Responses might include “Caribbean,” “former slave colony,” “French ancestry,” “poverty” or “earthquake.”
  • After a brief discussion of these responses, write the phrase “January 2010 Earthquake” next to “Haiti.” Ask students to consider what implications a natural disaster like this might have on the Haitian people. Student responses might include “death,” “destruction of property” or similar ideas, but guide the focus of the discussion to the earthquake’s disruption of infrastructure and pre-existing economic structures.
  • Finally, write the word “America” between “Haiti” and “January 2010 Earthquake.” Ask students to consider what the role and responsibility of the United States should be in helping Haiti recover from the earthquake. Point out that one of the great challenges for Haiti after the earthquake has been to figure out how to meet short-term survival needs while at the same time building toward long-term economic recovery. International aid and relief efforts often hand out food and supplies to meet basic needs after a disaster, which is helpful in the short term. But such handouts disrupt pre-disaster supply-and-demand chains, which slows the return of productive economic activity.


Main Activity: Prioritizing Relief Efforts in Haiti

  • Distribute the handout What Happened to the System? Go over its format with the class and ask students to use the information in the video Haiti: The Aid Dilemma to fill in as much as they can in each section of the graphic organizer. Then show the video Haiti: The Aid Dilemma.
  • After watching the video, divide the class into groups of three or four. Within their groups, students should compare notes, discuss, come to a group consensus, and write their responses on the graphic organizer. Circulate around the room and monitor students’ progress. Sample student responses to the second part of the organizer might include:
  • U.S. suppliers
    • Wrecked port initially impeded rice supply.
    • Massive influx of rice from aid agencies created a glut of supply on the market, artificially lowering prices.
    Large wholesalers
    • Faced with a largely free supply of rice, wholesalers must lower their own prices to compete.
    • Given the size of these wholesalers, most are able to survive, which means the economic costs are passed off to the next level.
    • Unable to profit with lowering prices and abundant supply, small wholesalers are leaving the market.
    Street vendors
    • Many have lost their connection with micro-wholesalers and are unemployed.

    If needed, follow up the group activity with a short discussion of their findings.

  • In the next group activity, students will examine practical decisions related to the managing of ship traffic in the ports of Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien. This exercise will require students to prioritize the forms of aid that would best serve Haiti’s short- and long-term needs. Set the stage for this activity by sharing the article “Quake-damaged Main Port in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Worse Off Than Realized”.
  • Distribute the handout Who Will Enter the Port? Keeping the same student groups, have each group member take one (or more, if needed) of the following roles for their group discussion as they complete the handout:
    • Port-au-Prince port administrator for the APN, the Haitian port authority
    • Official from the U.N. World Food Programme
    • Representative of Fonkoze, the Haitian financial institution dedicated to long-term economic progress
    • Representative of ADIH, the Association of Industries of Haiti, which represents large wholesalers affected by the glut of supply on the market

    Alternative Jigsaw Method: The port activity would also work well as a jigsaw exercise. For this approach, number all students 1 to 4. Have all the students that correspond to the same number gather together. Assign each group one of the roles listed above and provide a few minutes for each group to discuss the issues that would be facing an individual in that position, what his or her priorities should be, etc. Then reconvene the class and place students in heterogeneous groups of four, where each group has at least one representative of the four different roles.

  • From the perspective of their given role, have students work with group members to prioritize a list of incoming ships based on the cargo they carry, the type of ship (and therefore, the degree of difficulty involved in loading/unloading the cargo), and the needs of Haitian citizens. Display a world map that students can use to see where these ships originated and how far they have traveled. Again, circulate around the room to monitor students’ progress. Consider asking the following questions to help students think through this practical exercise:
    • What should be the first priority for Haiti now: immediate survival, short-term economic recovery, long-term economic improvement or something else?
    • Whose interests should be considered the most important right now: the rural poor, the midlevel wholesalers’ or the large wholesalers’?
  • If time permits, conclude the activity by having each student group report on their decisions, with particular focus on the first ship they would allow to dock and the last. Ask students to compare and contrast the decisions of the various groups.


This teacher’s guide was developed by Cari Ladd. It was written by Mark Pearcy. Advisers were Satinder Hawkins of Millikan High School in Long Beach, Calif., and Eddie Mandhry of Global Kids. The section on using these materials with ESL students was written by Sally Bunch.



These resources are designed to help ESL students/English language learners (ELLs) both increase their English skills and achieve the learning objectives of the lesson plan for Haiti: The Aid Dilemma.


The following words are used frequently in the video and can be used to communicate about the content:

    • wholesale: Selling goods in large quantities to a merchant, store or retail business, which in turn sells them to customers
    • mini- or micro-wholesaler: Person or business that sells goods to street vendors
    • supply: The amount of goods that is available to buy
    • demand: Desire or need for a certain good or product
    • import: To bring in goods from a foreign country to sell or trade
    • humanitarian: Concerned with ending suffering and improving conditions for people
    • commercial: Serving customers, usually for profit
    • voucher: A coupon that can only be exchanged for certain goods or services


  • Pre-viewing Activity
    As a homework or class assignment, have students complete the Vocabulary in Context handout, which pulls out text from the Video Script and asks students to define the target vocabulary by using the context of the script. Depending on the students’ language ability or time constraints, you may wish to provide the definitions to make the activity a matching exercise. Should you use this approach, a definition bank is provided on page 3 of the handout.

    One section of the activity also involves brainstorming examples of military supplies, humanitarian relief and commercial goods. Examples are provided.


  • Post-viewing Activity
    If the Featured Lesson Plan takes more than one day to complete, start each class session with review questions using the vocabulary.



  • Before Watching the Video
    Some of the ELLs may have emigrated from Haiti and have family and friends who have been affected by this tragic earthquake. Before engaging the whole class in a discussion about these events, it is a good idea to approach individual students ahead of time to assure them that the video mainly focuses on Haiti’s economic recovery and that images of the quake damage are limited to damaged buildings. Ask them ahead of time if they would like to tell the whole group about what they know about situation, focusing on economic effects in particular. Do they know anyone who is a mini- or macro-wholesaler, or a vendor? During the discussion, both native and non-native speakers could be encouraged to tell the class about family members who are involved in retail and wholesale businesses. Making personal connections to the subject matter will increase student engagement around the economic concepts of the lesson.

    If students read the Video Script, they may also complete the Transcript Questions prior to viewing. Before assigning the worksheet, introduce terms such as profit margin and ask for volunteers to rephrase questions to ensure comprehension. The questions can be reviewed all at once or a few at a time while viewing (see next section).

  • While Watching the Video
    If reviewing the Transcript Questions, pause after each point that two or three questions are addressed in the video to review their answers. This will give students a chance to check their work. Suggested approximate check-in points:
    • 3 minutes in: Questions 1-3
    • 4 minutes later: Questions 4-6
    • 2 minutes later: Question 7
    • 3 minutes later: Questions 8-9
    • End of video: Questions 10-11

    Depending on the comprehension abilities of the students, distributing What Happened to the System? may be postponed until after viewing the video. (Students can consult the video script for information.) Another option would be to present the assignment as a jigsaw activity and make each student responsible for completing designated cells of the graphic organizer and sharing their answers with their small groups after watching the video.

  • Using Maps and Visuals
    In addition to locating Haiti on a world map at the beginning of the lesson, students should have opportunities to view maps and other visuals that paint a broader picture of Haiti’s damaged infrastructure. When students read the news article “Quake-damaged Main Port in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Worse Off Than Realized”, maps, including “A Look at Damage in Haiti,” can show the extent of damage to roads and bridges, while “The Destruction in Port-au-Prince” allows students to zoom in on particular landmarks and see how the airport’s distance from the city center and gathering places can hamper aid efforts.



    To get students thinking about their positions on the Haiti aid situation before group discussions, ask them to “take a stand” on the issues. Clear a space in the classroom that is long enough to fit all the students, and post a sign that reads “Strongly Agree” at one end of the space and another reading “Strongly Disagree” at the other. Have all students stand in the middle to start, and read to them an opinion statement. Students should listen to the statement, then stand by the sign that reflects their agreement. The space serves as a continuum; for example, students who are not sure may stand in the middle, and those who agree only slightly may stand between the middle and the “Strongly Agree” sign. Call on students or solicit volunteers to explain why they chose their location, using facts from the video and readings. Encourage students with the opposite opinion to offer a counterpoint, and allow students to change their positions if they are convinced by what they hear from their classmates. Examples of opinion statements may include:
    • Aid organizations should just focus on giving money to Haitians affected by the earthquake.
    • Humanitarian relief is more important to Haiti right now; it should be allowed into Haiti before commercial goods.
    • If Melissa the mini-wholesaler could afford to buy rice again, then her problems would be solved.
    • Once the U.S. military fixes the piers, it should leave Haiti alone.

    Make sure that all students have at least one chance to explain their positions. Individuals can also offer up their own opinion statements to the group.



These standards are drawn from ESL Standards for pre-K-12 students, grades 9-12, published by Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL), at

    Goal 2: To use English to achieve academically in all content areas
    • Standard 1: Students will use English to interact in the classroom.
    • Standard 2: Students will use English to obtain, process, construct and provide subject matter in written form.
    • Standard 3: Students will use appropriate learning strategies to construct and apply academic knowledge.


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