January 12, 2010 a 7.0 Earthquake struck Haiti. In 30 seconds over 100,000 people died and the landscape of the country was forever changed. The palace, National Cathedral and hundreds of schools were destroyed. Millions of people were left homeless.
I was at work, finishing up a long 12 hour shift working in ICU when something on CNN caught my attention. Many times the TV is on in a patient’s room, even if they aren’t able to watch. TV provides a little distraction, background noise. I heard Haiti on CNN which isn’t very common. I looked up and was in shock. There was a map of Haiti on the screen and they were discussing preliminary reports of an earthquake. No photos yet, just early reports. Then they started reading tweets of missionaries I knew in Haiti- reporting real time via twitter- about the devastation they were already seeing.
Those next two weeks were terrible. It took that long to actually talk to our team, our friends, in Haiti. We waited anxiously for news of my kids’ birth family. They lived near the epicenter of the quake and we tried desperately to get a hold of them. When we finally talked to the kids’ birth mom it was surreal. She told us everyone was sleeping on the streets, afraid to go inside since they were having multiple aftershocks everyday. There were dead bodies everywhere, sometimes a dump truck would come by and the bodies were tossed inside. We later learned there was a huge mass grave outside of Port au Prince where the over 100,000 dead were buried. Many families in Haiti had no real closure, never got to see their loved one’s body, in fact many were still underneath rubble for years.
When we finally talked to our team they had been making meals and passing them out at the hospital. Port au Prince hospitals were overrun- so many casualties- but also many hospitals themselves were damaged. This led to a mass exodus where hundreds of thousands rushed out of the city to outlying areas. The city of Les Cayes saw full buses arriving multiple times a day for weeks as people sought help. Yet, they were injured, away from family and friends so our team stepped up to help.
A month later we arrived via private planes due to the incredible generosity of Bahamas Habitat- an organization of pilots and airplane owners who donated their time and planes. The sites were sobering. While driving on the main road in Port au Prince I saw a scene I will never forget, a family had set up a tent and a makeshift cooking stove on the median. You see, most surfaces were still covered with rubble and there was nowhere to go so this family claimed a little piece of the HIGHWAY median for their home.
Years later there were still tents. In the seven years since the earthquake the world has learned a lot about helping without hurting and how to do a better job with foreign aid and disaster relief. Yet there is still much to do. If you are considering giving, going or helping do your research. A good place to start is to read “When Helping Hurts” or “Travesty in Haiti”.
Hut Outreach was there before the earthquake, during the hurricane, and will remain. These disasters only highlight the need for the services we provide. Be a part!