Hardships and Miracles in Haiti
February 5, 2010
People in Haiti are trying to return to some normalcy since the earthquake. Haitians are very resilient people, but this is testing even their resolve. They have endured more than any people should have to endure: hurricanes, famine, corruption and now one of the most destructive earthquakes in our history.
Schools are shut down across the entire country, even in areas not physically impacted by the earthquake. People are migrating all across Haiti and this is placing heavy loads on small countryside communities. It seems that every department in Haiti has experienced some disruption in their communities.
Approximately one million people have been displaced from their homes. For those whose homes still stand, their fear keeps them from returning. Just last night we were in one of the worst hit communities and Ray Conn was asked to inspect a woman's home. He went inside and all around the house to look for anything that would be a sign of instability, but he did not find even a crack. He did show her a hole in the floor and they both laughed when she reported that it had been there for years. He informed her that the hole was probably more dangerous than the house falling on her. She felt reassured to move back inside her home.
The container the staff received on Monday before the earthquake was nothing short of a miracle. This food was packaged by Crossroads Church with Kids Against Hunger last May, and we have been working to get the container to Haiti ever since. The container arrived December 7, but due to all the red tape on the Haitian side, we were unable to get the container released until January 11-in the meantime paying $30 U.S. dollars per day to keep it on the dock. As I look back, it was a true miracle that we were delayed.
We had food and blankets (provided by Kara Beardsells group), shoes and clothing (provided by Silly Bean and Kate Finger's Plato's Closet), hygiene products and basic medical supplies collected by Mimi Clark and her small group. The food was supposed to feed the kids in our program this year; the blankets were to be distributed to our children so they would no longer sleep on the dirt and concrete floors. Little did we know that the food and blankets would sustain us during the first few days after the earthquake and provide relief to thousands of others.
We have passed out tons of food (literally), feeding over 5,000 people-including the children from our program. Daniel Rouzier with Food for the Poor (FFP) provided us with our first supply of food, but there was just not enough food being distributed to FFP to keep us supplied. Clint, my son, went to the Dominican Republic to find a good food source and returned with a truckload of beans and rice. We now have a good resource from which to purchase what we need.
One reporter asked me why we stayed in Haiti. The question took me by surprise-we never thought leaving was an option. We have friends who died as well as some of our children. We are finding more and more children every day but also realize that many may have headed to the countryside with the people they lived with prior to the quake. We have much to do.
All of our staff survived, for which we are very thankful. Roslyn Phillips, our child sponsorship coordinator, has emerged as a true leader in our efforts to find our children, even though she experienced the loss of her father during the quake. Ray and Roslyn are working with our school directors to see if we can open school again because children have nothing to do and families need to feel that life is happening. We also want to make sure the children are fed at least once a day.
This week, we are meeting with all of our school directors to see how we begin the process of restarting school. The national schools will not open for some time as many are destroyed and others will need to employ teachers to replace those that have died.
We rented a very large house that we will need to furnish to use as transitional housing for 30 children. Staff is being hired to help manage this for us. Some are coming from the U.S. and others are friends we know from Haiti. Jean Robert is helping coordinate this effort because he knows best what these children need. Our English program in Port Salut, supported by the H.E.A.R. Foundation, has provided several translators for medical doctors on the ground in Port au Prince. They all volunteered their time and felt honored to be able to contribute something to the relief effort.
Every day Jean Robert goes out to see how children in restavek are being treated. He comes upon some very sad and disturbing situations. We cannot rescue all of these children, but we report what we see to UNICEF and other organizations working on this issue. Many people are collaborating on the issue of restavek and hopefully something good will come from this terrible tragedy.
We will never be able to express our gratitude to all of you who have donated to our efforts.
Your support and concern has kept us going.
Joan Conn, Executive Director of the Restavek Foundation
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