Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Help and Hope Combat Fear in Haiti

What follows is the latest news we've received from Haiti, this time from one of Bethlehem Ministry's Board members, Frank Marchman. Frank returned Sunday from a week in Haiti.

Jan 31, 2010

Dear Friends,

I have just returned from Terrier Rouge and hope that this update will help you better see what is happening in Haiti. While I was there I was able to get a good feel for how the quake has affected the minds and souls of all Haitians. This will not be a report on the school, clinic or other projects-those will come later. Instead here I will try to tell you more about the current “psyche of Haiti.”

The news coverage that you have seen of the earthquake in Haiti has been very good at showing the damage and extreme hardships caused by this tragedy. However, that news coverage has not been able to depict the resulting tension and fear that pervade the country at this moment. The physical destruction was minimal in the extreme north and other parts of the country, yet the mental impact of the quake has affected all Haitians. Everyone is coping with a fear of the unknown. It is obvious in their conversations, and some cases mannerisms.

One evening about 3:00 am I awoke to a sudden sound of wailing coming from the direction of the clinic. This chilling cry of fear rose up and down in volume as if someone was on a roller coaster. I found out later that there had been a slight aftershock and that cataract patients sleeping overnight on the floor in the clinic had felt it. The wailing I had heard was their collective cry of fear and dismay. I had not felt a single tremble in the ground yet for those Haitians sleeping on the hard floor it was all too real.

This collective fear has manifested itself in many ways throughout the country. For example, there are many people in the affected regions of the south that are not getting help from the massive aid campaign currently going on there. According to Pere Bruno and others who have been in the south there are many Haitians who stay away from the aid distribution points because they fear the fighting and violence that sometimes occur in and around those points. As a result there are Haitians falling through the cracks in terms of getting food, water, and shelter. These are the unseen citizens of Haiti that the news outlets don't really know about.

These are the people that Haitians like Pere Bruno can effectively reach with aid. His trips to the south have been to areas where he knows the ground. It is his extensive local contacts and knowledge of how to feed large numbers of people that has helped him be very successful in reaching and feeding hundreds of Haitians in and around Port Au Prince. He has targeted individuals and groups not being helped by aid groups. This has been critical for saving many lives.

Pere Bruno was due to leave again today and make the long 8-10 hour drive down to the city with another truckload of aid supplies. On the return trip he will once more bring back Haitians who are in dire need of medical care or have relatives to stay with in Terrier Rouge. He hopes to do weekly trips for as long as possible.

Terrier Rouge and the clinic are starting to see a steady influx of refugees from the quake area. I also saw an increase of injured citizens coming to the clinic for additional treatment on their injuries. There were many people on crutches or with obvious recent injuries present in the streets. Who knows how many more injured are in homes of friends and relatives in Terrier Rouge. I know that several of the staff at the clinic have dozens of people staying at their homes- homes already crowded in normal times. This influx of refugees will only grow as people in the south are able to escape the ruined capital.

The recent outpouring of aid and generosity from you have made it possible for Haitians like Pere Bruno to step up and help their fellow citizens. I can't tell you how great a medicine this is for the minds and souls of Haitians. It is very important that we continue to do all that we can for the months of repair that loom ahead. Terrier Rouge and other places of the North will come to be seen as places for safety and repair of the mind and soul. It will put an increased sense of urgency upon Pere Bruno and others as they attempt to reach out to their fellow citizens.

Pere Bruno asked me to tell everyone that every Haitian feels supported and loved by your efforts. He has insisted that we understand that Haitians know and appreciate that Americans care and are helping. Knowing that people are praying for Haitians and providing aid will help get them through the dark nights of the coming months.

Please continue with your prayers and your contributions in the months to come. All of it is vital to help Haitians like Pere Bruno and others help others in their time of need.


Frank Marchman