By BILL QUIGLEY

Remains of a secondary school in the Martissant area of Port-au-Prince PHOTO: Phuong Tran/IRIN
Remains of a secondary school in the Martissant area of Port-au-Prince. Photo: Phuong Tran/IRIN

[Excerpts from an article previously on The Smirking Chimp and The Indypendent.]

February 4, 2010

Everywhere are sheet shelters. In parks, soccer fields, in the parking lot of the TV station, tens of thousands literally in the streets and on sidewalks.

Thousands of people standing in the hot sun waiting their turn. Outside the hospital are clinics, money transfer companies, immigration offices and the very few places offering water or food.

Hope is found in the people of Haiti. Despite having no electricity, little shelter, minimal food, and no real government or order, people are helping one another survive.

Men and boys are scavenging useful items from the mounds of fallen buildings. Women are selling mangoes and nuts on the street. Teens are playing with babies.

Everyone needs tents and food and medical care and water, but when you talk to people, most will lead you to an ailing great-grandma or the malnourished child—someone weaker, in even direr need of help.

What should outsiders do, I asked Lavarice Gaudin? Lavarice, who helps the St. Clare’s community feed thousands each day through their What if Foundation said, “Help the most poor first. Some who labored their whole lives to make a one-bedroom home will likely never have a home again. Haiti needs everything. But we need it with a plan. Pressure the Haitian government; pressure USAID to help the poorest.”

International volunteers who work hand-in-hand with Haitians are welcomed. Others, not so much.

Lavarice saw the Associated Press story that reported only one penny of every U.S. aid dollar will go directly in cash to needy Haitians. “I can understand that they distrust the government,” she said, “But why not distribute aid through the churches and good community organizations?”

And: “We hope this will help us develop strong leadership that listens and responds to the people.”

And: “No matter what, we will never give up. Haitians are strong, hopeful people. We will rebuild.”

Bill Quigley is Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights and a long-time Haiti human rights advocate.

A student in Jacmel, Haiti, where the earthquake destroyed nearly 200 schools. Photo: Phuong Tran/IRIN
A student in Jacmel, Haiti, where the earthquake destroyed nearly 200 schools. Photo: Phuong Tran/IRIN

Learn more about Haiti by reading:

Find Haiti resources for teachers at Teaching for Change