2010 – Haiti

Marie-Claude Julsaint is President of Solid’Haiti, a not-for-profit organization that supports Institut Oberlin, a primary school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Marie-Claude was in Haiti from February 25 – April 1st for a solidarity visit. The Ethiopian Children’s Appeal decided that part of the proceeds of its Spring 2010 Fundraising Event would be donated to help Haitian children. In thanks, Mme. Julsaint shared with the ECA a letter written to her siblings from Haiti six weeks after the January 12th, 2010 Earthquake.

My dear loved ones,
Where should I begin…?
By describing my arrival at La Isabela Airport in the Dominican Republic where in a whirlwind of confusion the airline agents tried to sell us two new tickets for Port-au-Prince after telling us that our plane had just left but that there was space on another flight?

Or the arrival at Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince where an impressive U.S. Air Force aircraft arrived a few minutes after we landed and the Brazilian Government’s plane with President Lula aboard was taking off a few minutes later as we crossed the tarmac to reach the new “immigration arrival” area.

On the way from the airport to Hotel Oloffson, I saw the “refugee camps”, the collapsed houses, what was left of the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, and our house (!) which is still standing, unlike what we had heard, but with cracks and huge holes in several places.

Despite the fact that I had seen most of these images on television before coming here, it was very different to see all this damage up close. I was torn between wanting to take pictures of everything I saw in order to show you, and the thought that the whole world had already seen these images anyway…

After dropping my bags off at the hotel, the driver took me to a restaurant in Petion-Ville where I was to meet some friends. What a joy to see them all alive! All evening long I listened to their stories, their fears, their frustrations, their strategies (“the emergency bag” that had to be ready to grab in a matter of seconds and what each one thought was important to have in this bag and what was no longer important after January 12th), and their many ideas of how the country should be rebuilt. The conversation that evening always revolved around the same subject: January 12th.
Each person had her own story to tell. Not once did they ask me my experience of this traumatic event or how the Haitian Diaspora in Switzerland had responded to the tragedy. I also had my story to tell…. but I cannot blame them for not realizing that I might also have wanted to share my anguish with them. It was very obvious that each one of them needed to unload the horrible things they had experienced! I found them at the same time courageous and very motivated, although extremely tired….

Back at the famous Hotel Oloffson I examined the ceiling (what so many Haitians are now doing whenever they enter a building) and the door of my hotel room (which is difficult to open from inside!). Needless to say that I did not sleep well that first night. I finally stopped the air-conditioner that was too noisy and prevented me from hearing what was going on outside and opted for the warm tropical Haitian night. I needed to feel, hear and understand what was happening or could happen outside, even in my sleep.

Hugs to all. If only you were here with me …

Till tomorrow for more news,

Mary

Port-au-Prince, February 25th, 2010