12 Jan Remembering Haiti 5 Years After the Earthquake
Haiti’s magnitude 7.0 earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010, left 220,000 people dead, 300,000 injured and rubble nearly everywhere. (NPR.org)
In the summer of 2009, Jedd and I had the opportunity to travel to Northern Haiti for the first time on a vision trip with Haiti Foundation of Hope. Being Jedd’s first experience in a developing country, it was a transformative week and eventually led to our decision to serve in the Peace Corps for two years together.
I’ll never forget the phone call I got while sitting at my office desk at the University of Portland’s Center for Service & Leadership just six months later. It was one of the post-graduate service organizations we worked with, and the caller informed me that two U.P. students who were volunteering in Haiti were inside a clinic that collapsed from a high-magnitude earthquake. I can still recall the uneasiness and dread I felt in my stomach that day.
We learned later, that one of the students – Molly – was killed in the collapse and the other – Rachel – was miraculously rescued from the rubble. (For the past five years, Rachel has been an advocate for Haiti and I strongly encourage you to read her story.)
We worried for the Haitian family we met that leads Haiti Foundation of Hope. They live in Port-au-Prince, which suffered the brunt of the devastation. Two of their children, who were going to high school in the States at the time, had to wait anxiously for days before communication was restored to learn that their parents and siblings had been spared.
Over the past five years, I’ve been trying to stay up to date with news from Haiti and educate myself more on the country’s complicated history. With disasters like these, I think we’re all at a loss for what to do. Becoming an “informed global citizen” is an important baby step in the right direction. Making a life-long commitment to pay attention and advocate where you can may be one of the most effective ways that an average American can help.
I can recommend some of the following resources for self-education, in case you’re interested:
- Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti
A human rights organization that distributes objective and accurate information on conditions in Haiti and that also pursues legal cases, such as the suit to hold the UN accountable for the post-earthquake cholera epidemic.
- Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
One of the most widely known, readable books about Haiti, which follows Dr. Paul Farmer, an extraordinary and unconvnetional public health practitioner and activist.
- Haiti After the Earthquake by Paul Farmer
An insider account of the disaster-relief effort in Haiti, which also addresses the man-made side of the suffering (inflicted by countries like ours) and proposes methods for more effective redevelopment.
- Jubilee U.S.A. Network
An organization advocating for critical global financial reforms and debt relief for countries like Haiti. Their successful debt relief advocacy for Haiti allowed the country to reinvest in infrastructure.
- An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, from Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President by Randall Robinson
A first-hand account of an unbelievable story, paired with a historical reflection on the country’s complicated “quest for self-determination”
Get our best tips and resources for transformational travel
Subscribe now to get our free Checklist for International Travel, plus other exclusive content about how to travel more, save money, and enjoy transformational experiences around the world.