Lesson Plan November 2, 2022

Beyond the Headlines: Humanitarian Crisis in Haiti



Beyond the Headlines is an ongoing series of headline-responsive lesson plans from the Pulitzer Center. These lessons seek to support teachers and students in navigating information, emotion, and perspectives on major news headlines, and to provide critical underreported stories that help connect current events to our personal lives, local communities, and systemic global issues. Browse more lessons in this series here.


Students will be able to...

  • Describe how the humanitarian crisis in Haiti connects to systemic, global issues
  • Connect with the humanitarian crisis in Haiti and foreign exploitation and intervention on a local and/or personal level
  • Identify, process, and value their emotions in response to the humanitarian crisis in Haiti and foreign exploitation and intervention specifically in formerly colonized countries.
  • Take action on foreign exploitation and intervention by exercising their media literacy, research, and/or art skills.


1. Talk with a partner and come up with a list of some problems in your community. Then, share out and create a class list of community issues.

2. Discuss as a class:

  • Who should get to decide how these problems are solved? Why?
  • Who should not get to decide how these problems are solved? Why?
  • Do you think decisions about your community are sometimes made by people or groups who should not get to decide? Why or why not?
    • If so: How do you feel about this? What, if anything, do you think should be done?
    • If not: How would you feel if people or groups who you think should not get to decide how these problems are solved took control and started solving problems in your community their own way? What do you think you would do?

3. Let students know that this lesson will focus on foreign intervention and foreign exploitation, and how these issues relate to the humanitarian crisis taking place in Haiti. Discuss as a class:

  • What do you know about Haiti already? (You can share historical information, or things you’ve heard about Haiti in the news)
  • Why is it important to know about the history of a country and the people who live there in order to understand current events taking place there?

Introducing the Lesson:

Key vocabulary:

Haiti is suffering from a dire humanitarian, economic, and political crisis. For the past few years, Haiti’s political instability and a gang violence problem has steadily worsened. Recently, gangs who control parts of the country blocked the main oil terminal of Varreux in Port-au-Prince. This has impacted Haitians’ access to fuel, power, water, food, aid, and other basic services. Cholera, which was introduced into the country in 2010 by infected United Nations peacekeepers, has also reemerged after three years without a reported case. 

Haiti’s unelected Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who took power with the support of the U.S after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, has requested foreign armed intervention. In response, thousands of Haitians have taken to the streets in protest of yet another foreign military intervention. These protests are part of a series of demands for the resignation of Prime Minister Henry, who delayed a scheduled election in November 2021.

Haiti has a long and complicated history of violent, unpopular foreign interventions. Since the Haitain Revolution, in which the formerly enslaved people of Haiti overthrew French colonists in 1804, Haiti has experienced three major military interventions and occupations. Western nations have long sought to ostracize, weaken, and regain control of Haiti. In 1825 the French government returned to Haiti and demanded 100 million francs, equal to approximately $21 billion today, to compensate French enslavers for their lost “property.” It took Haiti more than a century to pay off its former enslavers, contributing to the country’s ongoing economic crisis.

In this lesson, students will learn about the current humanitarian crisis in Haiti and explore its connection to foreign exploitation through the legacy of French colonial rule, foreign debts, and military interventions. By making this connection, students will be able to better analyze and connect with the current crisis in Haiti. 

Pause to Process:

After introducing the lesson to students, pause to check in with their emotions. Depending on established classroom norms and student comfort levels, students can reflect privately, or share in a small group or whole group format. Consider giving students the option to complete the exercise independently.

  • How does learning and talking about this issue make you feel? Try to find at least three descriptive words.
  • Can you identify what is making you feel that way? Think about…
    • Specific details of the issue
    • How the issue does / does not relate to you and people you care about

Educator’s note: Let students know that there are no right or wrong emotional responses to stories and current events. Students may feel sad, angry, or afraid when learning about injustices. They may feel numb because they encounter bad news so often, or because they don’t yet feel a connection to the story. They may feel excited or happy. The point of this exercise is for individuals to identify their feelings, recognize that they have value, and be mindful of them as they begin to dig deeper into this issue.

Going Beyond the Headlines:

1. Read/watch one of the historical context resources together as a class. Teachers may select the resource based on class time available and medium most accessible to their students.

2. Then, students work independently or in small groups to explore the Pulitzer Center story of their choice on contemporary issues in Haiti.

Historical Context Contemporary Issues in Haiti
“Haiti's long and complicated history with international intervention” from NPR [7 minute listen]

“Haiti’s Lost Billions” from the New York Times [interactive timeline of foreign exploitation and Haitian debt; 20-30 minute read]

“Haiti Has a History of Outside Interference, Erratic Leadership” from the Des Moines Register [broad timeline of political upheaval in Haiti; 10 minute read]

“Haiti and the Failed Promise of US Aid” from the Guardian [longform text; 20-30 minute read]

“The Ransom” from the New York Times [longform text with audio recording; 60-75 minute read or 62 minute listen]

“Debt, Coups & Colonialism in Haiti: France & U.S. Urged to Pay Reparations for Destroying Nation” from Democracy Now! [32 minute video]
“In Haiti, the Difficult Relationship of Gangs and Business” from the Associated Press

‘Either You Die or You Succeed’: Haiti’s Northwest Coast Spawns Migration Tide to Florida” from the Miami Herald

“This Ungoverned Haitian City Is Fighting to Stay Alive” from Ozy

“Desperate Haitians Suffocate Under Growing Power of Gangs” from the Associated Press

“Haitians Returning to a Homeland That’s Far From Welcoming” from the Associated Press

Discussion Questions:

After exploring the news story on contemporary issues in Haiti, students discuss:

Understanding the story:

  • What is one piece of information in the news story you explored that you already knew?
  • What is one piece of information in the news story that surprised or interested you?
  • Did you have any questions while exploring the story? What more do you want to know?

Connecting with the story:

  • How does the legacy of foreign exploitation and/or intervention connect to your community? (Consider discussing: what does foreign mean for your community?) For example:
    • Does your community experience foreign exploitation and/or intervention, or a related issue?
    • Do your community’s actions contribute to foreign exploitation and/or intervention elsewhere?
    • Does your community have resources that could help alleviate foreign exploitation and/or intervention?
  • In this story, how does foreign exploitation and/or intervention intersect with other global issues, such as racial justice and inequality?
  • How can you connect with the story you read on a personal level? For example:
    • Do you share experiences with any of the people in this story, or do people close to you share those experiences?
  • Have you experienced feelings similar to those the people in this story describe?

Evaluating the story:

  • How do you think exploring this story can be helpful in understanding the humanitarian crisis in Haiti?
  • How did the story you read highlight an underreported story? For example:
    • Were the voices of people who are often not included in news coverage centered?
    • Did the story explore the root causes of an event, or its long-term impacts?
    • Did you learn about an issue or a place you didn’t know much about before?

Acting on the story:

  • What stories do you think might be going underreported in the current coverage of the humanitarian crisis in Haiti and the underlying issue of foreign exploitation and/or intervention? What can we do to seek out those stories?
  • How are people working to resist and find solutions to foreign exploitation and/or intervention? (If you don’t know, do some research!)
  • What do you think you and your classmates can do to be part of the solution to foreign exploitation and/or intervention? (After brainstorming, check out the extension activities below for additional ideas.)

Extension Activities:

I. Verifying News Stories

Evaluating the accuracy of information can be especially challenging when a crisis is unfolding in the headlines, and new information is being shared rapidly by many different people and institutions. Use this activity to critically examine information you encounter about the humanitarian crisis in Haiti.

Step 1: Find a news story about the humanitarian, economic, and political crisis in Haiti online, and highlight factual claims the author makes in the story. (Students can explore the latest stories by Pulitzer Center-supported journalists here when they sort by country and type in Haiti.)

Step 2: Verify the information by answering the following questions on a separate sheet of paper.

  • What news organization was this story published by? Is it well-known or reliable? 
  • Who is the author? If you search the author’s name online what comes up? Do they have a connection or expertise in the topic they are reporting on?
  • Can you verify the factual claims you identified? Try these strategies:
    • Does the story include hyperlinks to other sources of information? When you click on those links, where does it lead?
    • Is the information attributed to a particular person? If so, are they an appropriate, knowledgeable source?
    • Do other news stories support the factual claims you identified? Do any news stories contradict the claims?

Step 3: Share a presentation with the class or write a short paper that answers the following question: Why is it important to verify information you hear about the crisis in Haiti, and what strategies can you use to do so? Feel free to include examples of information and/or misinformation you encountered in the story you read.

II. Research and presentation on a humanitarian organization

Research a humanitarian organization working and providing aid in Haiti. If possible, reach out and interview a representative of the organization. Put together a presentation to share with the class. Address the following questions in your presentation:

  • What is their mission?
  • What support are they providing? 
  • What solutions, actions, or policies are they promoting?

III. Art for Change

Art can be used as an instrument to inspire social and political change. With this in mind, create a piece of art that calls attention to the humanitarian crisis in Haiti. You can draw, paint, write a poem, choreograph a dance, or use photography to inspire action. You may choose to focus on, criticize, depict, or explain a particular aspect of this crisis. For example, you can create a drawing that illustrates the effects of this conflict on children in particular. Consider sharing your work on social media or display it at school to raise awareness.

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