This thesis explores how cultural knowledge, beliefs, and practices affected the humanitarian aid response to disasters in Haiti and Aceh Province, Indonesia. It examines the importance of local knowledge in post-disaster response situations and how aid workers’ “expertise” interplays with local knowledge, decision-making structures, and leadership. I questioned how knowledge of cultural practices could contribute to a more effective humanitarian aid approach and identified housing, social institutions and local leadership, economic systems, religious belief and practice as primary focuses. Examples detail how cultural beliefs and practices—as well as cultural heritage—may be vehicles for social stability and advance recovery in the social and economic spheres.
Humanitarian aid to Haiti has both positive and negative effects on a country that is already in a state of turmoil. Considering the aspects of education, economics, and the political climate in Haiti, and after conducting both academic research and primary source interviews from those affected firsthand by these issues, I concluded that outside aid and volunteerism to Haiti, and other third-world countries like it, is ultimately ineffective.