Wednesday, January 12, 2011

While the Earthquake was a year ago, the disaster continues

Intensity map for the 2010 Haiti earthquake                                Image via Wikipedia

You have seen the news.  Today is the one year anniversary of the earthquake that hit Haiti with such catastrophic results.   If you have somehow missed the news, here is some from the BBC's coverage

BBC News - Haitians remember their earthquake dead a year on:
"Haitians are preparing to mark the anniversary of the earthquake that devastated their country and left some 250,000 of their fellow citizens dead....

There will also be a minute's silence at 4.53pm (2153 GMT) - the exact moment when the 7.0 magnitude quake hit."
Wow.  It has been one year.  It seems both like yesterday, and a long long long time ago.

When the quake hit, BonaResponds was painting a church guest house in Atlanta.  I learned the news via a CNNBreaking news tweet.  At our "all hands" meeting that night we immediately decided to help.  We did not know, and never would have guessed,  the trials that the next year would bring to Haiti but instantly we knew the need for help was great.

As time went on, we saw the immensity of the need in the news and also from first hand reports that came from those we knew who were early responders to the mushrooming disaster.  Twitter, Facebook, and many phone calls to Haiti clearly showed help was needed.  And yet, like everything else it seems when dealing with a disaster of this size, helping is not easy.   Indeed it was a very very long road to help, with University, monetary, and isolationist roadblocks along the way.

Upon returning to SBU we were told by the University that we could not go as a BonaResponds Spring Break trip because it was too dangerous.  Later we were told by others that shipping would make sending supplies too expensive, then later that customs would make it impossible, and throughout the year we heard many complaints that we should ignore Haiti and help in the United States first.

But where there is a will there is a way, so plans were changed.  Several BonaResponds leaders made non BonaResponds' trips to Haiti with Hands (fromerly HODR).  BonaResponds  sent medical equipment, tents, tarps, 113184 meals, and school supplies (over 30 pallets so far)  Oh and don't forget the approximate 400 soccer balls since having fun is important too!

How was this all possible?  Because of you. You donated. You volunteered your time.  You helped.   So speaking for Haiti, THANK YOU.

But unfortunately that is all past tense.  It's great.  But it's done.  It's history.  And yet, today, as you read this, upwards of a million Haitians are still living in tents.  Hundreds of thousands of Haitians students can not afford to go to school anymore.  And millions more struggle to get clean water, food, and other basic necessities.

And by and large the world has moved on.  Oh sure today we will see ceremonies marking the one year anniversary, but overall, Haiti is again out of the minds of millions.  Today, I want you all to help put Haiti back into our minds.

First, I ask you to take a moment of silence with the rest of the world at 4:53 eastern (2153 GMT) to remember the approximate quarter of million people who died in the disaster.  But please go further than that.  One moment of silent prayer or reflection is not enough for a disaster this large.  It demands several moments. 

So please also take a moment when you walk into your house.  Remember those Haitians (about 1 million) still without a house.

Take a moment when you turn on your tap and water instantly appears.  Remember those Haitians who must carry their water miles to and from clean water sources.

When you flush your toilet, remember those who are still using pit toilets, or having to flush only once a day to conserve water.  

As you prepare to come back to school, or go to work, imagine your life totally upended.  Family members no longer here, plans scrapped.  That is reality for millions of Haitians.

Thinking about Haiti is a great step, but it is not enough.  We have to help.  So let's get involved. 
This is not supposed to be a negative depressing article.  Indeed, what I will take away from the last year is that we can make it better.  Haiti has many problems from politics to sanitation, from bureaucratic NGOs to lack of raw materials, from high illiteracy to cholera.  No one can fix all of the problems, but we can solve some of the problems. 

So Help Haiti.  Let's make it better.  BonaResponds is still collecting school supplies.  Drop off pens, pencils, calculators.   If we can get people involved to raise the $21,000 we'd love to do another foodpacking event on campus this fall. We are helping with the newly formed HaitiScholarships and the Leogane Rotary club is an effort to get students back into Haitian Schools.  We would love to do more, but we need you.  Haiti needs you.  You do not need to have any tie to SBU.  You do have to have a desire to help. 

Haiti has many problems. We cannot help everyone. But because a problem is big does not mean we can't do something. To those that we help, we may just make the difference they need.

Get involved. Help.

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