3 Guys in Haiti

Haiti: A Portrait of Devastaion

Posted in Haiti by 3guysinhaiti on March 19, 2010

I spent last weekend in Michigan and Ohio (snowboarding) 🙂 and putting together a Haiti presentation to show to a church that raised money for our trip. This is a video we put together for the presentation: http://vimeo.com/10292586

Advertisements

Haiti: A Severe Mercy

Posted in Haiti by 3guysinhaiti on March 10, 2010

by Josh Grizzard

Tragedy has a cruel way of visiting those who can endure it least. The devastating quake of January shook a country where nearly half of its population did not have access to clean water; a nation with an unemployment rate hovering just under 60% and an illiteracy rate around 45% – the country designated as the poorest in the western hemisphere – Haiti.

At 4:53 p.m., January 12, the Caribbean Tectonic Plate, grinding against the North American Plate, slipped; the built up pressure releasing a tremendous burst of energy. The force rippling through the earth’s crust created an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 on the Richter scale, convulsing and shaking an area just 15 miles south east of Haiti’s capital, Port au Prince. Within a few hours, the immensity of the worst quake to strike Haiti in 200 years became apparent. As darkness settled over the rubble-strewn streets of Port au Prince, screams and cries of anguish echoed through the city as children and adults desperately called out to missing loved ones buried under the debris. As the first rays of morning streaked down, the scene revealed was beyond anyone’s imagination. Entire blocks were completely leveled; the top floor of the capital building had collapsed to the ground; the general hospital was no more than a heap of wreckage. Worst of all were the thousands of critically injured residents lying in the streets or still buried in the rubble. Foreign response was massive but had difficultly accessing the victims due to the damaged airport and collapsed government. In the days that followed, rescue workers from around the world pulled out a rare survivor, thousands of medical workers set up tents and tended to severe crush wounds, performing mass amputations in an effort to keep the thousands of badly infected patients alive. In the following weeks, the death toll would be estimated at an astonishing 250,000; and nearly as many amputations would be administered.

Haiti, a country with a tragic history of revolutions, mass murders and bloody coups, is not foreign to pain nor to earthquakes. Port au Prince straddles the Plantain Garden Fault System, a fault line that has undergone several massive quakes in the past 500 years. In the same span of time Haiti has endured an even rockier political and social history. Exacerbating the tragedy is the fact that the crisis struck in a rare moment of optimism in the country’s troubled history. A nation already on its knees was hurled flat on its face.

From the moment Haiti appears in western history, suffering has been a way of life. Hispaniola, the island Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic, was first sighted by columbus in 1492. The Spanish claimed it as a colony and immediately put the natives to work on a desperate search for gold. The harsh working conditions and diseases brought from Europe devastated the indigenous population. In 1697 Spain ceded the western half of the island to France. The French saw a different gold mine on the island – sugar cane. Thousands of slaves were captured and shipped from Africa to work the plantations and the ecology was wrecked as huge tracts of forests were cleared to allow room for sugar plantations. Throughout the following century tensions between slaves and the French escalated to the point of revolution. In an act of desperation, the aid of Satan was invoked to deliver the slaves and grant them freedom. After 13 years of bloody civil war, Haiti gained its independence in 1804 with former slave Jean-Jacques Dessalines emerging as emperor. Two years later he was deposed by rebels in another civil war. By the turn of the 19th century political stability had still not improved. Citing the Monroe Doctrine of U.S. oversight in the Americas, President Woodrow Wilson ordered marines to occupy Haiti in 1915 to help establish a democracy. This was at the height of racial prejudice, however, and the United States favored the biracial, wealthier minority, severely deepening tensions. In 1934 the United States withdrew its forces. Voodoo doctor Francois Duvalier was elected President in 1957. “Papa Doc” was very popular with the black population but he turned Haiti into a police state and practiced mass genocide, murdering nearly 30,000 people during his 14 years in office. After his death in 1971, his son declared himself president for life. In 1990 Jean-Bertrand Aristide won the first free election but was deposed eight months later. The military junta refused to give up power despite widespread HIV, malnutrition and abject poverty, causing President Bill Clinton to send 20,000 troops to Haiti in 1994. President Aristide resumed office in 2001 but was exiled three years later. Powerful hurricanes swept over Haiti in 2005 and 2008, causing wide spread flooding, wiping out roads and crops, and displacing hundreds of thousands of Haitians. Apart from the hurricanes, the years just preceding the quake were marked by a relative calm under the leadership of President René Préval. Many Haitians were experiencing an unusual sense of common purpose and material upgrade – traffic lights were working 24/7 for a change – and the U.N. and other members of the international community were stepping up, giving Haiti direction for progress in the global market.

This positive momentum was swallowed up overnight as viciously as the earthquake razed the flimsy concrete buildings of Port au Prince. Many of Haiti’s finest buildings which helped give a sense of identity and history are now reduced to rubble. Haiti not only has to discover how to recover from devastation, but also how to rebuild its sense of self.

Shelton Ebby, Seth Haley and I stepped out into the warm, salty breeze and down onto the tarmac at the Santo Domingo airport. Lush fields of bananas and sugar stretched to the base of steep hillsides towering thousands of feet above the flatland. On the right I could just make out strips of the teal-blue Caribbean Ocean highlighting white sandy beaches. It was easy to see why the Dominican Republic was known as “paradise of the Americas.” I was having a hard time preparing myself for the horror I knew waited just over the border.

We found our plush, reclining seats (this was no chicken bus) and my eyes fell on a little girl, not older than two, standing on her mother’s lap smiling widely, revealing her only two teeth. Her huge brown eyes seemed too expressive for her young age and after staring at me for a minute she finally grew shy and dove back into her mother’s lap. I later discovered she and her parents were vacationing in the Dominican Republic when the quake struck. Now they were on their way to see what remained of their home in Port. My heart ached as I watched the little family; everything they knew and all they owned had been lost overnight – yet at least they still had one another. Many families could not say as much.

Six hours later we reached the Haitian border. A weathered, hand-painted plaque informed us we were now in Haiti but we needed no such notice. The stark contrast of the two countries was sobering. The border headquarters was doubling as a relief post; pallets of food and medicine were being transferred to smaller trucks which could manage the winding road to Port au Prince. There was a vacant, haunted look in the eyes of the many Haitians squatting in small groups, hoping for the luck to leave the country or at least taste some of the enriched biscuits being lowered into a nearby U.N. truck. After a brief stop to stamp our passports, we rumbled off in a cloud of dust, the blacktop giving way to a winding gravel road strewn with pot-holes and washboards. We were now in the routine agony that is Haiti.

“Well, here it goes, boys!”

Stephen Shankster called out some final instructions and bits of advice as we pulled up to a wide field that was now serving as a “tent city” – neighborhoods of sheets draped over crossed poles or sticks, housing thousands of Haitians who have lost their homes and their few possessions.

“This is a moderately sized tent city,” Stephen explained. “There’s probably around 3,000 people living here.” Stephen is a German Baptist who has volunteered with Christian Aid Ministries in Haiti for the past five years and is fluent in Creole. Seth and I, along with four CAM missionaries and two Haitians, were in the back of a covered truck filled with hygiene kits, tarps and other relief materials. The living conditions in these cities are beyond deplorable. The hastily erected tents are stacked almost on top of each other and there is no running water and no sewage. The only food and water they receive is brought in by relief organizations or the U.S. military.

“Back up against that wall, really close,” Stephen called out to the driver. “Closer! It has to be narrow enough that only one person can fit through at a time so they don’t mob us.”

“Looks like we chose the local bathroom to hand our stuff out,” Daniel Horner, another German Baptist working with CAM, observed as he gingerly alighted from the back of the truck. By now a crowd of curious onlookers was quickly closing in on the truck. Their wild eyes emanated desperation. For a moment I could feel their anguish as I looked into their eyes and I saw myself. These were people, just like me, with hopes and dreams for their futures. Now by circumstances completely out of their control they were here in this squalor, existing little better than animals.

At first the distribution went relatively smoothly, the crowd forming a line on one side of the truck and exiting the other with a tarp and rope for a more weather-resistant home and a pack containing a towel, shampoo and soap to help stop the rampant spread of disease. When the thronging crowd realized there wasn’t enough for everyone, they became more desperate than ever, attempting to squeeze through the line or crawling under the truck to get ahead. Several men began to climb on top of the truck and snatch packets through the windows. The mob grew angry, and began hurling rocks at us.

“Time to go!” Stephen shouted as he dashed to the cab of the truck and fired up the engine. Most of the crowd backed away, but some began leaping onto the bumper or hanging on the windows. The truck peeled away, the doors flying open and closed as we tried to bolt them shut. As we made our way to the main street, the desperate men still hung on, banging on the doors and yelling curses at us. As we approached the make-shift police station they began hopping off one by one. They knew they risked being shot if they were caught being disruptive.

We were all silent as we jostled about in the empty truck on our way back to the CAM base. Daniel broke the silence “Relief work lesson 101. Just because you’re trying to help someone doesn’t make you their hero.”

The first rays of sunrise chased away the grey morning as we negotiated the labyrinthine streets and back alleys of City Soleil, a vast network of slums known for it’s ravaging gangs and abject living conditions. Even before the quake, the U.N. had described this area as “the most dangerous place on earth.” In the past four years the Haitian police system had breakthrough progress in combating gang members and reducing crime. The morning of January 13th would find over half of the police force working in that area dead, and over a thousand of the worst criminals at large in Soleil due to the damaged prison. Despite all of this, the surviving residents stated their quality of life had actually improved after the quake. At the bottom of Haiti’s complex economic totem pole, getting something to eat required long hours driving a tap-tap, a small pickup used for a taxi and the local produce and livestock transporter, or sweeping the streets. The few goudas they made might buy them a small bag of rice; now there were truck loads of rice handed out for free by the U.S. military. Crime became nearly non-existent with heavily armed marines patrolling the streets, another tremendous improvement since the quake.

Even at this hour the swarming traffic brought the Toyota Hilux pickup Lamar Nolt was driving to a standstill . As we waited for a gap to squeeze through, the pungent smell of rotting vegetables, pigs and sewage wafted to the back of the pickup where I was standing.

“Wow!” I coughed. “This is squalor with a capitol S!”

My Dad seized the moment to pass out small gospel booklets in Creole. They went like hotcakes. Soon half the slum was pressing in, outstretched arms grasping for the tracts faster than Dad could hand them out. It was exhilarating to see such a ravenous hunger for God; the one glimmer of hope they could grasp and never fear to lose.

The congestion began to disperse, and in the distance I could just make out what seemed an enormous wall. As we grew closer, I realized these were the bases of high mountains, their cloud covered peaks soaring thousands of feet above us.

“Behind that peak is our destination,” Lamar pointed out. We were on our way to the remote church missionary Harold Herr had planted over 20 years ago.

“We still have another two hours of driving ahead of us,” Harold informed us as he fired up his Polaris UTV, “But we only have 12 miles to go.”

We crawled up the undulating ridge on a road little wider than a trail, our breaths snatched away as we came around a bend and were greeted by a vast expanse of mountains plummeting down to blue-green ocean far below. Palm trees and lush crops graced the steep hillsides, interspersed only by a small house or a herd of goats. I had a difficult time convincing myself we were still in Haiti.

I was soon reminded that though we had escaped the mass chaos of Port au Prince, even here the quake had left its cruel mark. As we piled out the back of the little pickup in the courtyard of the clinic, a middle aged man with bandages tightly wrapped around his leg sat alone on an old wooden bench. Lamar seated himself beside him, put his arm around his shoulder, and between sobs the man poured out his story.

The man had been working his crops on the precipitous hillside when he heard a great rumbling sound rushing down the valley toward him. Soon he was shaking violently, and it was all he could do to keep himself from tumbling down thousands of feet to the river below. Suddenly whole sections of the mountainside broke off and bus-sized boulders came hurtling down around him. He dove under a rock, and waited out the tremor, boulders bouncing all around. When all was still he poked out his head to look around. It was quiet – way too quiet. A shriek rang through the hills.

“My family!”

He leapt to his feet, attempting to run across the hillside in the loose broken rock. At that moment he heard the ominous rumbling of an aftershock, and before he realized what had happened a boulder crashed into his leg, hurling him into the air and down the mountainside.

He awoke to the humming of a bright florescent light. Three nurses were gathered around the table he was lying on, cleaning the deep gash down his leg. Spasms of excruciating pain shot through his body.

His mind cleared, and his thoughts flew to his wife and daughter.

“My family! Where is my family?”

He would later discover his wife and daughter had been herding goats when a wall of rocks came rushing towards them.

“Run!” the mother had called out above the roar.

“I won’t leave you!” the girl responded.

“Obey me! Run!”

The girl sprinted to the edge of the woods, rocks crashing all around. As the dust settled, there was no sign of her mother. An eire silence hung over the mountains. Her mother’s body was found three days later.

As the old man finished his story, tears were streaming down his cheek, soaking his ragged tweed pants.

The next morning as we scrambled up the long winding trail to the small church perched on a ridge far above, I watched streams of villagers making their way to worship and I wondered how many of them had similar stories.

We stepped inside the old building and squeezed onto a crowded bench as the 300 or more villagers clapped and invited God to the service.

As the lively singing began, the small building reverberated with their rich voices. Their vibrant African heritage shone through as a beacon of courage that has given these people spirt and resilience throughout their sad and bitter history. They seem unquenchable; despite trials and suffering, they face life with brave optimism and lift their voices in praise.

Not one of them, nor any of us, can claim to know why a tragedy of this magnitude was allowed. As Christians, we must be careful not to presume God’s mind in world events and assume this disaster is divine punishment on a depraved country given over to voodooism. Whatever factors induced the earthquake, there is no question that God is working through this catastrophe to bring about positive changes in Haiti. Throughout the country, impromptu worship services are springing up attracting large crowds. Haiti’s huge medical needs and widespread malnutrition is now receiving an unprecedented degree of attention and aid. The collapsed political infrastructure and ruined capital gives the international community a chance to help guide Haiti into establishing a successful democracy and self-sustaining economy. It will be a long and difficult haul, and as Haiti fades from the headlines we cannot forget our neighbor who still needs help as it builds a new future. Many are desperately searching for a deeper hope; a hope to cling to in the difficult days ahead. The people of Haiti long for a new life of purpose and faith. I am certain their prayers will not go unanswered.

Keep at it!

Posted in Haiti by 3guysinhaiti on February 25, 2010

As I was shooting the sunrise along a trial, this woman stopped walking to watch me. After I showed her a few pictures of the sunrise, I ask to take her picture. Showing her the picture, she laughed and said something about needing to fix her hair. I love the way older people in other country’s keep at it till they die. I want to do that! I want to do whatever God has for me, and keep at it! (to be faithful)

Children in Haiti

Posted in Haiti by 3guysinhaiti on February 23, 2010

Photos by Shelton.

People of Haiti

Posted in Haiti by 3guysinhaiti on February 10, 2010
40mm, F/4, 1/60, ISO400 (Canon 7D 17-40 4L) Copyright Seth Haley

40mm, F/4, shutter speed 1/60, ISO400 (Canon 7D, 17-40mm 4L) Copyright Seth Haley

17mm, F/4, shutter speed 1/80, ISO400 (Canon 7D, 17-40mm 4L) Copyright Seth Haley

50mm, F/1.4, 1/320, ISO1600 (Canon 7D, 50mm 1.4L) Copyright Seth Haley

50mm, F/1.4, shutter speed 1/320, ISO1600 (Canon 7D, 50mm 1.4) Copyright Seth Haley

17mm, F/4, 1/13, ISO1600 (Canon 7D, 17-40mm 4L) Copyright Seth Haley

17mm, F/4 shutter speed 1/13, ISO1600 (Canon 7D, 17-40mm 4L) Copyright Seth Haley

Tagged with: , , ,

Posted in Haiti by 3guysinhaiti on February 10, 2010

In the DR on our way home.

Tan!

Posted in Haiti by 3guysinhaiti on February 9, 2010

🙂

A Glimpse of Life in Haiti

Posted in Haiti by 3guysinhaiti on February 9, 2010

A boy recovering from crush wounds at a dorm serving as a hospital. It's so inspiring to see the incredible resilience and spirit many show in the face of such a tragedy.

Truck used by CAM to distribute food, water and other desperately needed aid

The irony of the bed surrounded by the crumbled hotel was poignant - amid all the chaos and upheaval, Haitians must still face life and the immense challenges that await them every morning.

Although the breathtaking country side is in stark contrast to Port-au-Prince in almost every way, it was not left unscathed by the trauma of the earthquake.

Haitians living outside the capital face a whole new set of challenges from the earthquake - landslides, crumbling homes and destroyed crops are daunting obstacles to overcome

Thousands of Haitians who lost their homes are living in tent cities. The living condition is desperate; with no running water and extremely poor sanitation, disease and despair spread quickly.

by Josh

Devastation

Posted in Haiti by 3guysinhaiti on February 8, 2010

Photos in this post by Shelton Eby

Posted in Haiti by 3guysinhaiti on February 8, 2010