Haiti: Strength and resilience in the face of disaster

by Gennike Mayers, IFRC in Haiti

Tuesday's earthquake has left tens of thousands of Haitians homeless and desperate. No one has been left untouched. But in the middle of the devastation, people find the time and energy to open their hearts and homes to those less fortunate.

Evince Ridorée came to the local Red Cross committee in Pétionville in search of help on behalf of the thousands of displaced persons who sought shelter at the "Chez les Frères" seminary in the district of Canapé Vert.

Shelter for the homeless

The seminary opened its doors to accommodate the residents of the neighbouring hills whose houses had literally crumbled in the earthquake. Brother Géniaud Lauture, director of the seminary explains: "These people had nowhere to go so they came here. Our buildings suffered some damage too, but we have a lot of open space so we welcomed them. They are safer here, than on the streets. We are lucky to have electricity and water but they need food and medical care".

In the shade of a few pine trees a few metres away from a sea of improvised tents, Pluviose Louken, a Haitian Red Cross volunteer operates a dispensary from the back of a van. Sporting an American Red Cross bib, a symbol of the close collaboration between the Haitian and American Red Cross Societies, Louken attends to minor wounds of those injured in the earthquake.

"I can help others who are not as lucky as me"

Louken has been a volunteer with the Haitian Red Cross for three years. He is trained in advanced first aid, health care management and health in emergencies. A computer technician by profession, Louken used to volunteer with the Red Cross in his spare time. Since the earthquake, Louken has been volunteering full-time. "I had nowhere to go so I came here. My house is gone. My family is ok. I have cousins who were injured but nothing major. Here I can help others who are not as lucky as me."

Notwithstanding the generosity of Brother Lauture, the perseverance of Ridorée, the dedication of Louken and the enthusiasm of the many new volunteers, the people of Haiti are in dire need of assistance. "People want to help but we need supplies to work with. We have nothing", says Louken. While humanitarian relief is crucial, Haiti will need the help of the international community in the post-disaster recovery as Haitians seek to reconstruct their families and their country.