There is something about Haiti. Once you’ve been there and worked with its people, it stays with you. It is a country at once devastated and beautiful, depleted and full of potential – and entirely compelling. Haitians are as resilient as anyone I’ve known, with a culture and art unique in the world. This week, a year after the earthquake, I find myself searching for signs of progress in rebuilding, for beacons of hope for a better future.
When news of the earthquake hit, my first response was sorrow for a people subjected to so much of nature’s fury. It was another storm wreaking havoc, destroying homes and taking lives. Then I saw the images and heard the accounts, and as the level of destruction sank in, so did anguish and worry for those I have worked with. It seemed everyone who had a connection to Haiti was suddenly calling and emailing to locate people. The stories that emerged were painful. In footage of a collapsed hotel where I had stayed, you could see the hillsides beyond where entire neighborhoods were a pile of rubble.
There were other stories as well. I read about a woman in the town next to mine shuttling back and forth to Haiti to make sure aid was getting to the people who needed it most. Relief organizations were raising money for shelters and medical supplies, and individuals were offering to care for orphaned children. A doctor whose home I had recently visited announced she was on her way to Haiti, her husband and children entirely supportive. So many were ready to give what they could to help.
A year later, there remains much work to do, and many questions about the relief efforts and progress made. But when I think about the incredible resilience of Haitians in the face of natural disasters and social unrest, and the millions of people around the world who have reached out with compassion and support, I realize that the beacons of hope likewise number in the many millions.