A year after the massive earthquake that left Haiti in ruins, Haitian-Americans are reflecting on the events of January 12th, 2010. Sylvana Joseph, a Haitian-American living in Philadelphia, whom we spoke to last year at this time, sent this report on how she and her family are doing.
One year later I thought I'd send an update on Haiti and the earthquake. First the numbers, there is no official count of the dead. The Haitian government puts a tally at more than 300,000 dead but acknowledges it is probably much more than that. Over one million people are homeless. Infrastructure is practically non existant in Port au Prince, towns in the countryside overwhelmed with people fleeing the capitol and of course we all know about the cholera. The price of everything has tripled, the government is ineffectual at best and there is no plan for safely rebuilding.
In terms of my family, we found two members alive so we lost 10 people in the earthquake. Family homes generally remained intact and those in Haiti are making the best of a terrible situation.
I have met some incredible people over the last year. Lay people and medical professionals who have given time, services, money and energy to help the survivors. Speaking of survivors, the refugees that I have met have been amazing, resilient, people filled with gratitude and in so many instances unbelievable joy and good humor.
Haiti is old news now, we have the tragedy in Arizona, the economy, etc, etc, etc. The story of that devastating earthquake doesn't have the legs that it did one year ago. The tragedy that brought tears to our eyes last year, is even worse now that it's old news. Nothing much is happening in Haiti; people have been living in tents for a year, cholera has taken hold, women are being raped in tent cities, children have been orphaned and families torn apart. The entire nation continues to mourn the dead, comfort the living and patchwork a semblance of a life in the shadow of devastating loss. Haiti has become the epitome of "There but for the grace of God..."
One year later there is anger, depression, sadness and resignation. Amazingly there is also hope, joy, fortitude and commitment. Schools are going on three shifts a day to handle the overflow of students. Strangers have become neighbors who it turn become families providing for each other, caring for each other and helping each other. Art is being made from earthquake debris and songs of sorrow are being replaced by anthems of resilience. Smiles keep coming and the heart of Haitian culture, our ability to spin our stories, to laugh, to find joy continue with great enthusiasm one year after the earthquake.
Several weeks after the earthquake, my great aunt was flown from Haiti to Miami. She's 88 years old, she had been trapped in rubble for three days. When she saw me, the first words out of her mouth were "What's wrong with your hair? Why don't you have any lipstick on? Have you been stuck under a building for three days? No? Well then, you have no excuse! Make yourself pretty and live life!"
Keep Haiti in your thoughts, prayers and conversations. Donate if you are able and make yourself pretty and live life.
"Piti, piti, wazo fe nich li." Little by little the bird builds its nest.