It’s been just over 10 weeks since the massive earthquake devastated Haiti. Many things have happened since then which have captured the attention of the media (an election in Iraq, an earthquake in Chili, the healthcare reform bill) all of which are important, but just because we aren’t hearing about Haiti every day doesn’t mean everything is ok there.
This story has captured me from the very beginning and I’m not quite sure why. I don’t actually know anyone in Haiti, or anyone from Haiti. I was at the gym the evening of January 12th when I first saw the story break on CNN. I didn’t have headphones, so I was trying to figure out what was going on from the captions on screen and although I was just getting bits and pieces I remember thinking, “Oh no, this is really, really bad.” Since that day I have been following the stories of several people who live and have lived in Haiti, learning more about the country and their culture and praying for them to be able to overcome the huge trial they have been dealt.
I think one of the reasons I’m captivated by Haiti is that Haiti was a mess before the earthquake. The government was corrupt, their economy was basically non-existent and there were more than 300,000 orphans – yes BEFORE the earthquake. Yet, it took a disaster of this magnitude to turn our attentions to the island nation. I hope that now they will finally get the help they desperately need, but there is a lot to overcome.
One morning on the way to work a story by Debbie Elliott was played on NPR. The story (which you can read or listen to here) was about a group of orphans in Haiti – teenage boys who lost their families in the earthquake and have been living in a park ever since. Social workers found the boys and promised to take them to an orphanage where they could return to their education and maybe some sort of normal life. The social workers returned a few days later to tell the boys they were too old for the orphanage and instead offer them a tent in one of the camps in the city. One of the boys had written a poem:
My name is Luckson
I'm sixteen years old
My mother and father's dead
I don't have no one to help me
I don't have nobody in haiti
My sister and my brother's dead
I'm sleep in the street
I don't have no one to take care me
Please lets me go with you
I need adoption.
Please help me.
I had to sit in my car and pull myself together before I could go into work.
Of course Luckson will likely have to remain in Haiti despite the dozens of people who contacted NPR saying they would gladly adopt him, because the Hatian government (under pressure from UNICEF and other international organizations) has put a stop to international adoptions. The folks at UNICEF believe it’s better for these children to be raised in overcrowded orphanages so that they are in their own country than to be taken to another country where they might have a chance with a loving family and a high quality education. I hope you’ll read the whole article – I especially like the quote where the woman from UNICEF compares living in destitute poverty in Haiti to a lack of air conditioning. Classy.
Another part of what makes the recovery so difficult in Haiti is the atmosphere of corruption they must overcome. This blog post by Barbie, a PA from Alaska working in Haiti really brought that home to me. She tells of being in a pick-up truck holding a dying child at the gates of the hospital where the guard tells them they cannot come in because the hospital is closed. They can clearly see it is open but the man will not let them in until he sees that Barbie is white. Had she been a Haitian the child probably would have died.
My heart has been truly touched by the people who have dropped everything and made sacrifices to help in Haiti. Did you know Sean Penn has been in Haiti almost continuously since the earthquake? He lives in a tent city there and runs a newly formed relief organization which gives food, water and medical care to the people. But it’s not just high profile celebrities offering this kind of sacrifice, there are hundreds of regular people who have gone to Haiti hoping to ease some of the burden. There is a part of my heart that wishes I was in a position in life that would allow me to help in that way, but I have responsibilities here that make it impossible.
Instead all I can offer is my support. A little bit of financial support (I recently chose to give to Heartline Ministries – a well established organization on the ground in Haiti able to help people immediately with their needs), the support of my thoughts being with them, and a lot of prayers. Prayers for Haiti are offered in our home every day. If they didn’t come from me they would still come from Brad who has prayed for the people in Haiti each time he has prayed since I told him about the earthquake. He prays that “the people in Haiti will be healthy and strong and have the things they need to build their homes.” He never, ever seems to forget.
I hope none of us do.