7 July 2010 by Sam
Here are Clare Wolfarth’s thoughts on returning home from her six week sabbatical in Haiti, where she has been helping her former employers Oxfam in their relief operation following the devastating earthquake in January.
“Two missed connections, fourteen hours later than scheduled and I still haven’t been reunited with my luggage but am home. As I sit here in my house in Crosby, it’s difficult to know where to begin to answer the first question asked by friends and family: “How was Haiti?” I usually settle for “amazing” as my response as I struggle to articulate my experience of the place.
‘Rebati Lavi sou lòt fondasyon’ is Haitian Creole for ‘Renewing Life on new foundations’ and is the name given to Oxfam’s strategy for supporting the recovery of the Haitian people affected by the earthquake. Almost $10 billion has now been pledged by the international community to support the recovery of Haiti; an enormous sum and an opportunity that cannot be squandered. The emergency response to the earthquake is a short term intervention to meet acute need but I realised during my time in Haiti that there has been a chronic emergency of overwhelming proportions in this country for a long time.
I leave with many, many memories which will stay with me for a lifetime. Memories of the randomness of the destruction of the January earthquake that has left some houses unscathed and others reduced to piles of rubble whilst still others have been left like strange, life size dolls houses with the sides ripped off so passersby can see the rooms and furniture left inside. Memories of the squalor and the smells in the camps; the children and the elderly who were finding ways to live there; the art and the music and the spectacular scenery; the heat and the rain. But above all, memories of the pride and resilience of an embattled people who have found the strength to carry on living as they walk over the ruins of their neighbourhoods, their businesses and their homes. They have taught me that the will to live and carry on living is inextinguishable against all the odds.
I believe we all have a responsibility to these people and above all, whatever we can or can’t do in practical terms to help, our responsibility is to not forget them or their suffering when the media does; to take a moment to pause and be grateful for what we have got in our own lives.”
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