Haiti’s Developing Resources Shaken
Written Jan 13, 2010
I came to serve but I wasn’t prepared for an earthquake that registered 7.0 on the Richter scale. How can this be happening to a country like Haiti, already struggling with mountains of debt and a history of political and social catastrophes?
On January 9, 2010 my son and I left for southern Haiti, an outreach of Souderton Mennonite Church in Souderton, Pa. My son, Jordan, needed to fulfill his senior high school experience at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School by being involved in a week of service or job shadowing. Jordan chose to work in Haiti with the Water for Life program located in Passe bois d’orme and the Tree of Life in La Baleine, Haiti. I came along with 26 other persons from my church to try and bring hope and encouragement to the people of these two villages.
But we were not prepared for an earthquake that rattled our plans and introduced us to what it can be like to feel stuck in a foreign country on Tuesday, January 13th. We were at the beach in Passe bois d’orme when the first quake struck. We happened to be rattling around in an extended jeep wagon with luggage and 15 persons aboard at the time. The driver said that he heard a metal crack, thinking it was the axle that snapped but instead his wheel lug nuts had snapped off from the movement of the ground beneath us. Then a few minutes later as we reached our destination, the ground shook again and a woman and child came running out to escape walls moving and dishes falling. It was terrifying and everything revolted, waving branches, toppling towers, and people scattering in aimless directions. We gathered quickly in circles of prayer, praying for safety and protection from the elements.
We soon heard that a tsunami warning was issued for Port-au-Prince (about 50 miles away) and we hustled to escape to higher ground and the secluded mountains away from the coastline. We couldn’t hurry enough on the rock grooved roads that permitted only one lane traffic. We fearfully watched the water for a response and tried to drive faster. We needed to make a quick stop at the local mission house for extra clothes and stopped several times for picking up falling luggage, readjustment of the standing passengers on the back of the trucks, and an overheated engine that transferred more persons on the already overloaded 3 vehicles.
We finally got to the hills of La Baliene and decided it was safest to sleep outside on mattresses than risk the walls tumbling from the responding aftershocks. We slept under the open sky with our frightened Haitian neighbors that had gathered at our mission guesthouse. Between babies crying and goats bleating, we didn’t sleep much, but we were glad to be safe and to still have food and shelter. The next day, when the dust cleared we heard about the airport being closed, the presidential palace being flattened, and the roads twisted and broken, landslides that shut down all traffic, and suddenly realized we might not be able to leave Haiti on our scheduled flight after a week. We also heard of many casualties and ruined homes. The quakes had taken away homes that may have been poorly constructed and small, but they were homes that represented a growing self-confidence and emerging agricultural independence. How could this happen to a country desperate to regain the hardworking coffee production and tourism of the past? I can testify to the fact that Haiti is filled with lush valleys and palm-lined coasts that could tempt any traveler. So with so much potential for good, an earthquake is the last thing the Haitian people needed.
We came wanting to serve, but may leave not having achieved much at all. But we certainly were exposed to the hidden potential, unique possibilities, and warm hospitality of Haiti.
Also published at http://www.jdjeeps.com/index2.html