Haiti – Shaken to the Core

Two years ago today Haiti was shaken to its core.  The earthquake did not discriminate gender, age, class, nor creed; it simply shook everyone and everything for miles around – from one room homes, to the palace and cathedrals. Some structures wavered and cracked but remaining on their footings, while others became nothing more than dusty graves for their inhabitants.  In less than 60 seconds 300,000 people died; that’s equivalent to the populations of Kitchener and Waterloo combined. One million people were left homeless, and more than three million people were negatively impacted by the earthquake.

Haitian building after earthquake

When I first arrived in Port-au-Prince, 6 months after the quake, my heart ached to see the level of destruction and for a moment I was immobilized by feelings of hopelessness.  Yet, when I looked beyond the rubble and exposed rebar I was warmed and humbled by the resilience of the Haitian people. I witnessed their determination to not only rebuild their communities and lives, but to also strive for a better life. A life not dependant on the generosity of strangers. A life designed and built by them, for them, supported by international partnerships.

I was in awe of the resilience in Haiti as I questioned my own inner strength and determination. In my own life I had faced adversity, but could I have faced such unimaginable loss and still got up rather than given up?  I honestly don’t know. I observed and met families who had lost everything they had owned, lost loved ones and even a sense of dignity as they crowed together in tents and used latrines setup on public highways. However despite everything, they remained undeterred from their goals and life purpose.

Haitian Women on the way to market after the earthquake

All around me men and women were moving rubble – chunk by chunk, reclaiming rebar, and pouring concrete into elaborate moulds for rebuilding. Vendors were setting up their wares under tarps and umbrellas, selling what they could grow, make or purchase at the port. Children danced between the tents and played soccer wherever space could be found. And those with “more” donned uniforms and weaved around the pot-holes in the roads to attend schools, colleges, universities, or careers.

Two years have passed since the earth shook Haiti to its core and soon I shall return to see the progress of these resilient people. The people who have taught me the most valuable lesson of all – although you may be scarred emotionally and physically from an ordeal, moving forward comes from evaluating what you have, rather than what you do not have or what you may have lost!


In recognition of January 12th 2010 – when the earth shook.

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