Some of you may know that during my senior year at UConn, I and eight other students traveled on a service trip to Haiti through the Diocese of Norwich for 11 days. During that time, we visited children’s orphanages, AIDS homes for the dying, hospitals in Port-au-Prince, and even took some children to the beach on a day trip. While I’m sure we made only an indent in attempting to provide companionship and solace to the people of Haiti, this trip changed my life.
The people of Haiti are unbelievably strong, loving, and generous considering the horrible economic conditions they are subjected to. It was amazing to me to see people so happy, yet have so little. I came back to the US and broke down crying immediately upon arriving home, realizing how overwhelming the experience was and how much I have to be thankful for; how much I have, and in all actuality, don’t need.
Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. In Haiti, running water is a luxury. There is no running hot water. If a child had a blanket or even a bed to sleep on in the orphanage we visited, he was lucky. If he eats two meals a day consisting of bread and rice, he was lucky. The children we met were all starving, indicated by their bloated, distended stomachs. Here in the US, we take ordinary garbage collection for granted. Imagine walking off the plane upon arriving at the airport in Port-au-Prince, only to be overwhelmed by the smell of burning garbage. In Haiti, there is very little access to anti-retrovial medications to prevent the onset of AIDS and lifesaving malaria drugs, again things most of us have access to in the US. We are so incredibly lucky to live in the US and to have all that we have, yet every day, we take what we have for granted.
Haiti is not like the US, there is no disaster relief. The infrastucture was not built to withstand an earthquake of this magnitude, or any earthquake for this matter. The buildings and houses are built so poorly that they can barely withstand daily weather conditions, let alone a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. Amazingly, I was just watching CNN and someone from the Diocese of Norwich was being interviewed. Apparently Father Chuck, who was there ten years ago when we were in Haiti, is currently trapped in the house in Petionville that we stayed in. While in Haiti, we went to the Presidential Palace, which has since toppled to the ground, and even met the President himself. The main hospital in Port-au-Prince, one in which we visited, has since collapsed. Seeing pictures and hearing reports of what is going on in this country is unbelievable. I do not know how the country can possibly deal with this; but being the upbeat, positive people that they are, I know that they will prevail.
To hear that such a disastrous earthquake has shattered this country brings me to tears. These people do not deserve this; they have already been through enough. Just like with the terrorist attacks of 9/11, times like these make me question why God would allow something like this to happen. I am sincerely tempted to pick up and go back to Haiti right now to help these people. I have wanted to go back for some time, and this obviously is a time when they need our help more than ever. Please keep the Haitian people in your thoughts and prayers, and if there is anything you can do to help them out, whether it be a monetary donation or some other means, consider it. The people of Haiti would do it for you, if they could.