There was one issue that we hadn’t given much thought of while in the United States: unemployment. Some who were fortunate to have their homes remain intact now find themselves unemployed since their office buildings are destroyed. Of course this affects their ability to provide for their families as there are no unemployment insurance agencies in existence to meet the needs of the country. Some people spoke of the nightmares they now experience due to the trauma of the earthquake; there are no social services agencies to meet the psychological needs of that demographic either.
Before leaving the United States we heard of the millions of dollars donated to Haiti but we saw no evidence of this anywhere. Downtown Port-au-Prince and several outlying neighborhoods are rife with tent cities where many people are living in deplorable conditions where their access to clean water is limited. We fear for the lives of the people living in the tent-cities since lack of clean water can lead to epidemics of water-borne diseases that could greatly increase the death toll among the survivors of the earthquake. Though some have received aid in the form of medical supplies and food, there is most certainly an urgent need for clean water.
There is a strong UN presence in and around the City, but we only witnessed them directing early morning traffic and looking down on people from their guard towers. The Haitian government is now making plans to move the capital to Cap Haitian or “Au-Cap” and decentralizing Port-au-Prince while developing surrounding cities. But of course this will not happen overnight, so until then, as hard as it may be, life must and go on.
Towards the end of our trip we travelled 6 hours into the countryside and saw the true beauty of the island. Words cannot describe the lush flora and fauna, the beautiful hills and mountains, and the fresh air… it was amazing! It is here we experienced the slow pace life of country folk as they meandered down the streets on horses and donkeys. We waved at folks as we drove by and they waved back like we were neighbors. Here too we saw the urgent need for water wells and sanitation facilities in various communities; men, women, and children carried buckets and jugs of water for miles on foot.
We knew that many children in Haiti have been left orphaned due to the earthquake and determined to visit an orphanage while there. The orphanage we visited houses 136 beautiful and very well-behaved children. This particular orphanage is operated by a Pastor and his wife, along with 4 full-time nuns. They explained to us that each nun or “mother” as they are referred to is supposed to be responsible for the care of 8 children, however, as they are currently under-staffed and without enough funding to recruit and hire additional staff, they may have to close the orphanage. When asked what the children needed the most they stated emphatically, “Beds!” We asked to see where the children slept and were saddened to see the sleeping conditions of the children. If you would like to learn more about how you can help the children of Eglise Bon Berger (Church of the Good Shepherd) Orphanage, contact us for more information.
We learned a lot from the people of Haiti; they accomplish a lot with very little resources. Despite their circumstances most are willing to share the little that they have to show their hospitality. And in the midst of a daunting and seemingly overwhelming situation they have found the strength and resolve to forge on. We went there to be a blessing to the people of Haiti, but we were blessed by their indomitable spirits!