Haiti: May 2010
Our trip to Haiti was filled with no small measure of trepidation and excitement. We had been longing to travel to Haiti to assist in relief efforts since the initial earthquake in January, but we now needed to conduct a feasibility study for our water well/sanitation facility projects. Weeks prior to the trip our friends urged us to obtain relevant inoculations prior to travel, but we decided to take a risk and travel armed only with insect repellant, aspirin, and Imodium AD.
From the moment our plane landed in Haiti’s Toussaint Louverture International Airport we felt like we were in a different world. We were immediately confronted with the impact of the earthquake as we witnessed the immense damage the airport suffered. As we collected our luggage and passed through customs, we observed the people around us: Haitians visiting from abroad, business professionals, and NGO relief workers.
On our way to Tabbarre, which was where we spent most of our time, we saw firsthand all the buildings and homes that had been destroyed. This destruction was repeated every day as we travelled from Port-au-Prince to various parts of Haiti. We spoke with people who had been trapped under rubble and escaped managing to rescue their loved ones in the process. They were the fortunate ones who lived to tell their story. But we couldn’t help but look at the rubble that was on every street, in every neighborhood all over Port-au-Prince and think of the many lives that were not rescued, their bodies trapped underneath the piles of concrete and metal. It’s one thing to sit in the comfort of one’s home with the remote control watching the drama unfold on CNN and entirely another to witness it up-close and personal. On more than one occasion we brushed away the tears that swelled up in our eyes rolling down our sweaty cheeks.
Amidst immense destruction the people of Haiti have proved to be resilient. Everywhere we went we saw the Haitian flag displayed proudly. Many vendors sell their wares on top of rubble; commerce is alive and well in Haiti! There is now no infrastructure, with most aid coming from the international community, but somehow people are finding ways to continue make a living and take care of their families. Indeed, these are the proud descendants of the Slaves who fought and won their independence from their French colonizers.