Welcome to the streets of Haiti. These are shots I captured at random times of day in random spots around Port-au-Prince. This is a bustling city where commerce comes in all shapes and sizes. These are enterprising people. Each has a story to tell. Each story might reflect a deep, abiding love for a land that was once a land of the free, but now painted as the land of the forgotten. I’ll let the camera do the talking, but I hope by the end of this post you’ll figure out that there is more to Haiti than meets the eye…or ears…or news. Enjoy.
On one particular afternoon during a quick ride to the supermarket, this song happened to be blaring on the radio. So imagine me clicking away on the camera, listening to conversations in Haitian Creole and humming away to the Spanish bachata lyrics 🙂 Cultural fusion indeed!
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In 2010, a mere few weeks after the earthquake in Haiti, one NGO in Trinidad & Tobago was able to mobilize 2 humanitarian aid/missionary groups – totaling perhaps 100 per group, land them safely in Haiti and reach out to six (6) communities, that had been severely affected by the earthquake. I was one of those humanitarian aid workers.
Three years later, on the eve of my aid mission, I find myself trying to reconcile the Haiti I met back then with the Haiti I now know exists based on the findings of my Christmas sojourn – the bustle, the rich culture, the life, the love, the inexplicable pride for all things Haitian. As I sit and try to make sense of it all, I find myself turning to the pages of an article I wrote three years ago: Encounter: Helping in Haiti.
Even today the words still have the ability to transport me back to that time. I’ve finally decided to share some of the imagery with you and invite you to read the entire article at your leisure.
St. Marc, Gonaives, Carrefour, Port au Prince, Jacmel, Timounette…
To you – names on a map; to me – a reminder of the most difficult (emotionally, spiritually & physically) days of my life. Through collaboration with more than 16 partner agencies in Haiti we distributed about USD 60,000 in aid, fed over 1500, set up medical clinics and treated many in the communities.
An Encounter in Santo Domingo…
My eyes are drawn to these words in my memoir… “I remember walking into the airport terminal to buy some food. There was a group of persons sitting a short distance away from me. I noticed one of the women reading the writing on my jersey. As I passed she said, “I thank you for coming. My people thank you.” It was an extremely poignant moment for me and I could barely respond to her with a half-smile. I needed no other reassurance that we were needed.”
A Depressing Reality…
I read on in my memoir and the following words remind me of the mental frustration I took around with me for the people of Haiti… “In my mind I can no longer separate the days spent there. The scenery was the same each day – dust, hot sun, motorcycles, tap taps (covered vans), fallen homes, rubble, makeshift tents made with scraps of material, persons bathing in rivers, drains, any waterways at all, people speaking in a tongue that was hardly familiar. The need is so great sometimes it was overwhelming. These people are in need of everything. Long after I have returned home to relative comfort, their need is still there. Their homes are still destroyed; they still need shelter, water, food and medicine. They are still unable to account for members of their families.”
I close my memoir at this point. I simply must continue tomorrow. Dawn is breaking above the mango trees in my garden, signalling a fresh promise for today. For now I’ll push away the memories and enjoy the birdsong outside instead. Tomorrow – A Tense Moment in Haiti & Stranded at the Border.