I published a slightly different version of this article in the Montclair Times Jan. 28th, 2010 edition.
New Year's Eve, 2009, the eve of my 65th birthday. The moon is
full and golden, filling the sky and low hanging over swaying palm trees. Birds
call in the scented air. A sure recipe for romance; I, however, am in love with
the sweet cheeked village children of
This goat herd is only one of many family herds funded by
Sonjeayiti.com’s micro loan project. Sonjeayiti or
Sonjeayiti.com, its founder Gabrielle Vincent and many of its
participants are only a few of the many people I interviewed in pre-earthquake
for a www.thimbleberrypress.com middle school reader, My Country: Haiti (where past and present meet) and Draw on Culture: Haiti, an art activity book. And their energy, creativity and warm-heartedness was typical of people I met all over the country.
The Haiti of Hollywood stereotypes and rumor;
Western hemisphere was a common topic that I heard about again and again from people all over the country.
Leogane, a bustling town of about 20,000 east of Port au Prince and the unfortunate epicenter of the earthquake is the location of Father Gabriele Blot’s parish. Pere Gabie, holder of a double doctorate and a master’s degree, showed me a newly opened computer lab for his plantain and vetiver growing community. Alternately giving me Haitian revolution history lessons and discussing the spiritual social structure of his parish, Pere Gabie spoke often of that national pride to the gaggle of adoring children tagging after us as he pointed out where the school would expand and new housing would go.
One of my favorite visits was with Rosemond
Joliessaint, 18 and winner at 16 of
I want to end this piece with some
observations by my friend Stevenson sent from
“Every day I walk around town to see the actual damage. You could never capture enough, the expression on the faces of the survivors. I did not see or hear any violence. Haitians are proud of the hospitality concept. They will open their doors to total strangers and at this time this catastrophic moment, I was filled with wonder. Never before in my entire life, have I heard of a store owner giving the green light to those less fortunate to take what they need to survive. There are so many stories of loss and death… and at the same time there is such unity among the Haitians to give a helping hand.”
While the reports of death and destruction from the earthquake are devastating, I think it is important to honor the resilient spirit of
. The true test in the months and years ahead will be less for Haiti and more for us—safe in our homes. Will we forget? Will we dismiss Haiti , as has been the pattern in the past? Will the world, will we have the same kind of unity to give the helping hand that will be needed? Haiti