Haiti: Signs of Life on the Streets of Death

Kristin Butler | Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer | Monday, January 10, 2011

Haiti: Signs of Life on the Streets of Death

January 11, 2011

One year has passed since that day in January when an earthquake turned Haiti upside down. Many will mark this day as the last day they saw their mother, brother, father, sister, or friend. Some, like thirteen year old Carlos Desir, will mark Jan. 12 as the day they lost their entire family. Tiny Lovinsly Edouard will celebrate his first birthday. 

"I was terrified," his mother recounts, "I knew it was too soon, and I couldn't see how either myself or the baby could survive [the birth]," she said in a story for the UK publication, Mirror. "I was sure that we would both die." 

Lovinsly was born into a world of rubble, shattered windows, broken buildings and broken bodies. He entered the world while his mother, Marjorie, lay trapped beneath the ruins and rubble of her own home. She had gone into labor only moments after the earthquake struck, and while the wreckage of her house fell around her, the tiny baby was born. He was four weeks early, and, under the circumstances, the birth was anything but safe. 

Now, one year after the earthquake struck, taking the lives of 230,000 people, Marjorie is grieved but grateful. "A year on I thank God for my son because not everyone else has been given the same chance," she says. 

The Path of Survival 

Indeed, chances at life were few and far between in the shattered remains of post-earthquake Haiti. Between the trappings of rubble, the onslaught of cholera, and the agony of untreated wounds, chances of physical survival were slim. For those who did survive, they often live with intense loneliness. 

In a Toronto Star article, columnist Catherine Porter wrote about 13-year-old Carlos Desir, a boy who has lost his entire family in the devastation. Duncan Dee, Air Canada's chief operating officer, befriended Carlos in Haiti while delivering aid weeks after the earthquake that claimed the boy's family. Dee found out that the parents Carlos had lost in the earthquake were actually the aunt and uncle who adopted him after his original parents died. The child was grief-stricken, having lost not one but two families. He literally had no one left in the world. And his plight isn't an uncommon one in Haiti. 

Melanie Colleu writes that "more than 500,000 Haitian children still live in miserable conditions a year after the devastating earthquake." Thousands have lost their parents or caregivers, and of those who were orphans prior to the quake, many have lost whatever caregivers they once had. 

"This country is still struggling, even though there have been some great things that have happened this past year," said Franklin Graham, president and CEO of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and international relief agency Samaritan's Purse. "We want to do everything we can to not only help the people of Haiti, but to reach them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ." 

With a million people still in tent camps, 380,000 of them children, the country still has a long way to go before safety and even a moderate level of comfort becomes a reality for its citizens. Cholera, an easily curable disease, has claimed between 2,000 and 3,000 lives. 

Hope on the Rise 

But there are glimmers of hope in Haiti. Graham was recently invited by more than 500 Haitian churches to hold a Festival of Hope, celebrating God's faithfulness and focusing on a perspective of hope for the nation. Graham wants Americans to continue to play a vital role in praying for Haiti, as well as investing time and treasure. 

"I call on the churches of America to pray for the people of Haiti, our neighbors just a few hundred miles from our own shore, who have suffered so much this year," said Graham. "Out of the abundance that we have been given, we should share with those who have so very little." 

Signs of Life 

For Air Canada's COO, Carlos Desir was an individual face in mass suffering. Before they returned home to Canada, Dee and his wife bought a Haitian cell phone for the orphaned 13-year-old. "Call if you ever get lonely," they told him. 

Upon their return, the depth of the child's need sunk in. Carlos had left 30 messages. 

It's people like Carlos that put a face on the overwhelming need in Haiti. While it's easy to become overwhelmed with the breadth of need throughout the whole nation, we must also remember the depth of need inside a single soul. 

One year after the tragedy, heartache and loneliness remain realities for thousands of Haiti's children. But individuals like Dee and so many others are finding ways to courageously address the depth of need found here. 

For Dee, this meant finding a secure and happy home for Carlos. Now, in a country where thousands of children still live on the streets, Carlos has now found his way into a new family. He resides in a home for children, outside the commotion and chaos of the city. He has a comfortable bed, kind caregivers, a library full of books, and, perhaps most importantly, a friend in Duncan Dee. 

And as for Dee, "It's allowed us to think about something other than ourselves and understand the reason why we're part of this community, this world," he says. "To show a child he's not alone in the world, somebody loves him. It's a real privilege." 

Marjorie, whose son was born on that fateful day one year ago, is still devastated by the disaster, but looking forward with hope. "Lovinsly will always know he is one of the lucky ones," she says of her one-year-old son. "I do see my son as a sign of hope for Haiti. I know I'm lucky and blessed to have him." 

Kristin Butler is a contributing writer at Crosswalk.com, where she covers topics related to religious freedom, human rights, and philanthropy. For further articles, visit her website at kristinbutler.net or email [email protected].