When I heard news of the earthquake off the coast of Haiti last night
, I thought of all the people who became friends during my visit to Hispaniola.
I remember sitting in a little restaurant and writing up my travel notes; long before I even knew about the Internet.
Port-au-Prince is snugly positioned in a horseshoe bay, at the foot of surrounding hills. An island at the mouth of the bay protects the capital from intruding gales, but the wide, treeless main streets do little to shelter the people from the bright light and the tormenting heat of the midday sun.
Ebony pores glistened with sweat in the continual competition for space. Baskets on the floor were continually being pulled aside, or pitches picked up completely, for the through passage of huge, laden barrows, or motor vehicles that should have had no right of way.
Others looking for places to sell, balanced the goods on their heads and stepped through dirty puddles and piles of waste; flicking splash marks up tender calves.
A white face in their midst is a strange occurrence:
"Hey Blanc, where you go? You want something?"
All anybody could want is for a big, fluffy cloud to scud over from the neighbouring mountains, or a gust of wind to swirl around the doorkeeper, Gonâve Island, and ventilate the stinky streets.
Haiti may be one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere, but there is certainly colour and resourcefulness in the lives of the people. Rickety old pick-ups and little lorries have been colourfully transformed into public transport (tap-taps).
Just like people on a crowded street, these vehicles weave in and out: pulling in close to a crowd to pick up and drop off passengers, and pulling out just as swiftly, without ever seeming to collide.
Perhaps there are occasional scrapes, but on the whole, cars seemed in a better condition than in the neighbouring Dominican Republic.
Then there are the evangelical signs on the tap-taps, like those on Filipino jeepneys, praising Dieu and Don Jesus: Jesus Roi des Rois, and Dieu avant tous among the many variants on the theme.
Even in the poorer mountain regions, groups of children could be seen walking to school in clean uniforms. If they succeeded with an education then they were less likely to suffer from the splash stains and constant sweating from the labours of the market streets.
Sandy left his birthplace to study in the United States, and subsequently rose to prominence in the world of engineering.
As well as bearing him three children, his wife also succeeded in business management.
From New York, they moved nearer home to Miami, and twenty years after his initial departure, Sandy returned to his birthplace with his young family.
"I have seen it all," he said, "What more can I do but return home?"
But he would always be grateful for his start in life, and now he was pleased to see a world-wide crackdown on the evil drug trade that threatened to ruin so many young lives.
"If you have the will, you can do anything. At college in the States, not once did I even smoke a cigarette," he offered; condemning those who are so easily swayed by others.
Sandy was into the third month of his six month leave of absence, and if things worked out with his little restaurant, and the political future seemed stable, he would stay.
"They have an American school here, but of course you have to pay! To have a chance today, it is important for my children to have that education," he shrugged. I was the only customer in the restaurant, and my bill would hardly pay for a satchel to carry the books.
The proud father would not have his son pushing a barrow three times his size, or his girls carrying their merchandise on their heads and squatting to trade in the dirt.
They would be the luckier ones, and if another unsavoury regime snapped upon them, he had his American passport and property in the States.
His heart was in Haiti, and even though he was tentatively testing the the shark infested waters with his big toe, the undercurrent of his birth would work strongly to keep him.
However, education had taught him caution, and I wished Sandy well.
It wasn't until first light this morning
that we could really see
the devastation caused by last night's cruel earthquake and callous after-shocks; where even the Presidential Palace
had crumbled to the awesome force of nature.
Embassy of Haiti
Haiti updates on Twitter
According to an International Red Cross spokesman, up to 3 million people may have been affected by the earthquake. At least the main airport seems to be working, which will make it easier for relief aid to get to the people who need it.
The American Red Cross
has pledged an initial $200,000 to assist communities.
is assessing the situation in Haiti.
Direct Relief International
is responding to the 7.0-magnitude earthquake and its aftershocks.
Haiti earthquake update
from Medecins Sans Frontiers.
International Medical Corps
is deploying an Emergency Response Team to Haiti.
The International Committee of the Red Cross
(ICRC) has joined its Red Cross partners to support the earthquake victims of Haiti.
International Relief Teams
(IRT) is appealing for cash donations.
announced that it will send medical aid to Haiti as part of the relief efforts.
Save The Children
launches emergency relief aid to assist children and families in Haiti.
UNICEF is deploying necessary supplies to Jacmel and Port-au-Prince as quickly as possible to assist with recovery efforts.
United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti
staff members are assessing the situation and preparing for an emergency response.
World Food Program
is mobilising all available resources to bring urgently needed food assistance to thousands of people affected by the devastating earthquake.
The United Nations
has also set up a Haiti Response
Once the humanitarian needs are met, the International Fund for Animal Welfare
will have an Emergency Response team ready to assist the animal victims.
We can also start to look at the smaller organisations in Haiti who could do with our donations: Partners in Health
, The Lambi Fund
- set up by Wyclef Jean (@wyclef
Labels: aid, earthquake, Hiati