Letters from Port au Prince
by Sasha Kramer
This morning I returned to Mon Nazar for the third time, the place where Rea Dol’s school SOPUDEP is, the place where I first fell in love with this country, the place that was once a bustling mountain full of hope and promise. Now the pages from children’s notebooks float in the breeze, while neighbors pour gas into the crumbled houses, burning the bodies of their lost loved ones, wailing as the bulldozers move in, 20 days too late, when all that is left to recover are body parts and the dust of shattered dreams.
And still it is the resilience and not the destruction that threatens to break through the numbness, the children jumping rope and laughing in the middle of the burning garbage, the stranger who gently takes my hand and leads me through the rubble watching to make sure that the glass will never pierce through my faded sandals, the songs of love and solidarity that echo through the camps at night, the outpouring of support from friends around the world.
People who never would have thought that they would have the strength to stand up following a tragedy of this magnitude, have done so much more than stand. They have found an inner fortitude, a reserve of compassion and dedication that was released by the quake, a river of courage that spills from their hearts, and every day people traumatized by loss are engaging in extraordinary acts of kindness.
Last night as Jess Lozier and I were returning to the guest house around 7 p.m., we saw a truck run over a motorcycle with two passengers down by the airport. We pulled back to see what had happened and found a crowd gathered around the two bodies on the ground. Everyone helped to lift the injured man and woman into the back of our pickup.
When we arrived at the hospital Jess and I stayed with the patients and Romiel, our incredible driver who had already been working since 6 a.m., rode off with the two strangers in search of the families of the two victims. Around 10 p.m., Romiel returned with the two men and the families.
Both of the injured patients had severely fractured pelvises and would have died without medical treatment. Without any question of compensation, these ordinary people rose to the occasion and became agents of salvation. I cannot find the words to thank them.
The other day we went to St. Claire’s church in the community of Ti Plaz Kazo, the church where Father Jean Juste inspired thousands. Father Gerry would have been so proud to see the line of 3,000 people calmly waiting to receive a hot meal. Amidst the wreckage of Port au Prince, this church is still a sanctuary and I could feel Father Gerry all around, his spirit holding up the walls of the rectory, his love cradling the souls of the hungry.
Jean Ristil, a dear friend and brave journalist from Cite Soleil, spends his days delivering water to the tent camps around his community. Nick Preneta, SOIL’s new water specialist, accompanies him most days and together they have delivered over 40,000 gallons of treated water to Cite Soliel. Jean Ristil broke his leg in a motorcycle accident one week after the earthquake, but undaunted he hops around the water tanker on his crutches helping to organize the community, often late into the evening.
Everyone has lost so much, but it is incredible to see the emptiness of loss transformed into the fire of action. Please know that your donations and solidarity are the fuel that helps us keep the fire lit, the fire that light our paths as we walk through the crumbling walls of this proud city, the fire that will eventually burn away the loss and destruction and from the ashes Haiti will rise again, as she always does.
So thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you who have supported the relief effort in Haiti. Your contributions are helping and we are so grateful. All of the money that has been sent flows directly into the hands of these courageous community organizers giving them the means to serve those they love. Please continue to give at www.oursoil.org and pass this message along to others who are holding Haiti in their hearts and prayers. You can keep up with our blogs at www.oursoil.org or by joining the SOIL Facebook group.
Sasha Kramer, Ph.D., an ecologist and human rights advocate, is the co-founder of Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) and an adjunct professor of international studies at the University of Miami. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.