Blog: Pam Saulsby visits Haiti
Posted July 23, 2011 9:40 p.m. EDT
Updated July 25, 2011 12:02 p.m. EDT
Te Temble. The earth trembles. I am told that is what the Haitians call the massive earthquake that crushed the country 18 months ago.
I am just back from Haiti. It was my first visit, and because of major paradigm shifts, I have been doing a lot of emotional processing upon re-entry. I was advised about this before I left Haiti, but there’s nothing like having all of it hit you in real time.
I worked in television in Miami for 10 years and in that time reported on the political and economic problems in Haiti… the detention camps in Dade County.. the boat people risking life and limb to come to Florida..and the Haitian diaspora in Miami’s Little Haiti community.
I say all that to say I thought I was prepared to handle the level of desperation and despair that is present after such a catastrophe of epic proportions. I was not.
Haiti is a country just so full of contrasts. I see people begging on the streets shamelessly… who live in squalor.
At another turn, I see proud families making sure their children are clean and healthy. There is evidence they work hard to make sure that the bit of shelter they call home is tidy with a clear sense of order. I witnessed an incredible will to live that is unshakable… even by such a monstrous earthquake. I don’t feel they should be pitied or mourned.
I went to Haiti with many questions, but chief among them was the one I planned to ask of the Red Cross: Why are reconstruction efforts moving so slowly?
There was naivete with that question that I didn’t realize at the time.
Here’s the deal: Haiti was in very bad shape to start with, and weak for the mission it needs to execute. I was constantly reminded that Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.
There is no magic wand. What needs to be done is not easy to map out. What needs to be done is going to take time. From what I saw, it had to involve mobilizing the Haitian people to help themselves with the help of the international community.. foreign friends.
In the words of Kathy Walmer, the executive director of Family Health Ministries: The Haitians are smart people. They know what their needs are, they know what the problems are. They know what the solutions are. They need the resources to address their needs.
I shadowed Kathy and those who work with this awesome Durham organization for 4 days in Haiti. I saw that while Haitians are tired, they are not defeated.
In Haiti, I saw people going about their day. They really don’t have much choice. They navigate around the rubble and debris.. and they go about the daily business of survival.
I saw evidence and heard stories of all the foreign interests in Haiti and their hodge podge of projects to build back Haiti.
I was left with the impression that while all of this is good, it will be the Haitian men and women who will ultimately build that country. I could see in Fondwa, in Leogane, Blanchard and Jacmel that they have the will. They have the ability. They need the opportunity.
I have a heart for Haiti and its people, and it beats strongly.
My life has changed because of this trip and I am all the better for it.