I was dramatically affected by Joint Council’s previous trip to Haiti two weeks after the earthquake. Months after returning to the U.S. Joint Council hosted our Annual Conference and the affect was still on the top of my skin. During the Conference Tom and I spoke of our time in Haiti, of what we had seen. We cried…on stage…in front of 300 people…more than once. To say that I had a little post-traumatic stress would be an understatement. As the months went by, I felt like the only way to get past the pain and hurt was to continue to work…and to return to Haiti. I needed to see the change. I needed to see that Haiti had risen. I have yet to see my unrealistic, idealistic dream – that Haiti had risen.
Much about flying into Haiti has changed – the view before was military ships, rubble and destruction that one could see from miles above. Today it’s a sea of blinding blue tarps used as roofs that foreshadow the landscape of destruction. The airport has changed too, immigration and baggage claim, which were nonexistent two weeks after the quake, have been relocated into an airplane hanger. Driving through Port-au-Prince the streets have changed, the cars that were once destroyed, covered in rubble, have now been stripped of every useful piece for use in other cars. While for a moment it appears that Port-au-Prince has moved on, grown-past the earthquake, you turn a corner and bam it hits you – another four-story building down to a few feet high. It hits inside like an aftershock.
And there is no break from it. The Villa Creole (where we are staying), which, I’m told, was a beautiful resort prior to the earthquake still maintains its beauty. However, when you look a little deeper you notice – half the hotel destroyed into rubble, part of the lobby gone (a plywood wall blocks most of the rubble from guests view), and the staff sleeping in tents on the tennis court because they have no home.
What breaks my heart more is that what we’ve seen in the first day is the good, the lucky. Yes, the hotel staff are sleeping in tents on the tennis court but they, unlike those living in the tent cities surrounding nearly every intersection, can use a restroom at the hotel. And they have jobs. Many of the few in Haiti who had jobs prior to the earthquake have yet to return to them, due to the destruction of the business. I guess what all this comes down to is that Haiti has just begun to rise. There is still so much to be done and we’ve just started. I hope I can be even a small part of that.