Below is a blog that was written on September 16, 2021, by Give Hope Co-founder, Angela Quinn.
“Today marks 14 days since I returned from Haiti. In those 14 days, I still haven’t been able to talk about it. To anyone. I have tried to process it, have tried to put words to paper, but I just couldn’t. What our team witnessed was too catastrophic and devastating to even find the words for it.
I was in Haiti at the height of the Cholera epidemic in 2010, the Chikungunya pandemic of 2014, after Hurricane Matthew ravaged southwest Haiti in 2016, during numerous political crises, and a COVID-19 outbreak, but nothing prepared me for this. This was loss like I have never witnessed. The people of Haiti work extremely hard for what little they have and, for many of them, everything they had was lost in 40 seconds on August 14th.
There are so many images that won’t leave my mind – funeral processions, survivors digging through the rubble of what had been their home trying to recover anything, a group of men rebuilding a church with hand saws, children with improperly treated wounds that had become infected. One haunting memory was a woman we met whose baby had two broken legs. We asked what happened and the woman told us that as her house was coming down, her husband threw his body over the baby to save her little life. The weight of his body broke her legs. The weight of the walls that collapsed on them killed her husband.
We learned that in the mountain village of Masline, that Saturday morning most of the men in the community were working together to prepare the soil for a community garden that would provide food for all their families. The men were working on a flat piece of land between two mountains. When the quake hit, landslides occurred simultaneously on both sides of the men burying them as two mountains became one. The husbands, the fathers, the breadwinners of that community were gone in an instant. Widowed women of all ages were left to provide for their children alone, many with homes reduced to rubble.
And there was the two-month-old baby boy who was placed in my arms in Camp Perrin. During the quake, his father grabbed him and escaped the house, his grandmother was trapped under a wall and severely injured, and his young mother perished in the house. I looked at this precious boy in my arms and felt so much sadness that he would never know or remember his mother. I studied the face of his widowed father and saw a man who was lost. This 24-year-old new dad had buried his wife the previous day.
If a 7.2 earthquake hit our country, help would be on the way immediately by way of FEMA, the National Guard, Fire, Police, Rescue Teams. The government would provide financial assistance. Local agencies would set up shelters and provide food and water. In Haiti, no government or military rescue came that day. People can’t just simply rebuild their homes. They were barely scraping by before; they have no money to rebuild. The Haitian president was assassinated this summer and the government is in a state of chaos. Praise God for charitable organizations like Samaritan’s Purse and many others who responded with trained disaster relief volunteers setting up mobile hospitals, and treating injured survivors. Praise God for the US Coast Guard, Marines, and USAID. Countless NGOs (non-governmental organizations) jumped on planes to help provide aid. But even those rescue efforts were hampered by blocked roads, COVID, and Tropical Storm Grace. Nothing is easy in Haiti, ever.
The recovery needs are overwhelming. It will take years, maybe decades. It will require millions of dollars to rebuild what was lost. But so much of what was lost can’t be restored. Human lives – mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, children, and babies perished. I talked to people who visibly were still in shock. I saw the emptiness in their eyes and heard the hollowness in their voices. They are traumatized. They have PTSD. But in the remote villages of Haiti, there are no mental health professionals or counselors to help them process the trauma and grief.
If I have learned anything about the Haitian people in 11 years serving there, I have learned that they are the most resilient people on the planet. No matter what they endure, and they have endured tragedies and setbacks on a monumental scale, they pick themselves up by the bootstraps and move forward. They don’t want or ask for sympathy. But I learned on this trip that they do want to talk about the tragedy. They want to tell you their earthquake story. I talked to survivors who recounted that morning when the ground began to violently shake and their homes started falling down around them. Do you know what so many of them said? They said, “I lost my home but that’s okay, I am alive by the grace of God.” They lost everything but are still counting their blessings. To them, it’s only a house, it’s only stuff. They have a grasp on what is important in this life and they realize it isn’t what we accumulate. The Haitian people have taught me this lesson over and over again.
I will close with an excerpt from an Instagram post I wrote three years ago that still applies today. “I am deeply grateful that God chose to take me out of my comfort zone in 2010 and lead me to a place that changed my life forever. Haiti is a place the world would prefer not to hear about. It is poor. There is corruption. But Haiti is not to be pitied. The Haitian people are an example of deep loving relationships, immense faith in God, uninhibited worship of their Creator, strong work ethic, and indomitable spirit. They keep going forward after constant setbacks. I don’t want to ‘rescue’ them – I want to be more like them. There is so much to be learned from and to admire in the Haitian people and culture.”