Haiti, reeling today from a magnitude 7 earthquake, is among the poorest of poor countries. This is surprising since only 250 years ago, it was the jewel of the Caribbean, making its French colonial masters rich beyond imagining. In 1804, the slaves of Haiti successfully revolted against their French masters. Unfortunately for the Haitians, it would seem little has progressed from that date.
Bob Corbett who, along with his wife founded, in 1984, People to People, a charity aimed at bettering life in Haiti, attempted to identify the reasons for Haiti's poverty in a very good essay you can find here. He makes a compelling case that French colonialism, uniterrupted misrule by autocrats, and U.S. foreign policy have all combined in a perfect storm to negatively influence life in Haiti since its revolution.
Haiti was in ruin before this quake even hit. Let us hope that some good arises out of this tragedy to set Haiti on a different trajectory. And if you would like to contribute to the well being of Haitians after the recovery from this quake passes into memory, People to People doesn't look like a bad place to start.