By Dr. Kelly Crowdis, CVM Field staff in Haiti
Last Saturday there was a 5.2 earthquake in Haiti that was centered in the ocean near the Northwest town of Port De Paix. The entire country felt it and there was a collective moment of panic as everyone ran from their homes remembering the tragic earthquake of January 12, 2010. On Sunday a 5.2 magnitude quake followed that shook the entire country again. The words are hard to find to describe the feelings in your stomach as they rise to your throat and the dread that comes from memories of 2010 while it happens again.
Although the people in northern Haiti didn’t experience 2010 like those of us in the South, they lost loved ones, heard the terrible stories and saw the news. When the ground started shaking this past weekend, everyone thought January 12 had arrived again. The town of Port De Paix, the largest town in the northwest, and closest to the epicenter of the quake had several deaths and injuries. Many of those were from people jumping from second story buildings in fear and running because they knew what was coming.
Songe and Roseline are two graduates of AgHorizon Veterinary Training Center. They live in a town called Gros Morne, located further from the epicenter that had more structural damage. Several schools, an auditorium, some homes and a guest house collapsed. There are churches and homes damaged beyond repair. The sound of panic when I finally got in touch with Songe was all too familiar. She hadn’t been able to contact Roseline (they are best friends) and things were in chaos. My mind went right back to the night of January 12 when I was trying to get home to see if Jan & Keith Flanagan and my Haitian family were still alive. The panic in her voice touched the center of my soul – the feelings of not knowing and dreading the worst because of what you saw around you were overwhelming. It wasn’t until Sunday that we found out Roseline was ok.
Saturday night I was ready to mobilize quickly and head north, but because I didn’t have my truck, I had to wait until daylight to see the damage we expected. Saturday night I called another missionary in the northwest part of the country and found out that he and his family were fine. He said he would drive to the epicenter at daylight and asked us to wait for him to contact us. When he arrived, he reported no houses down and local people were saying that the damage was focused elsewhere but there were houses down in the countryside.
At the same time, I was in contact with Songe and starting to see images from the town of Gros Morne. Songe told me that everyone was sleeping in the rain because their houses weren’t safe to go into and they were afraid. They needed something to shelter themselves.
Monday I picked up 3 billboard sized tarps and 500 sheets of tin. Tuesday before daylight we headed north. There were no convoys of aid trucks, there were no desperate people blocking the road trying to get food/water or other supplies on the way there as we had seen in the previous quake. As we got closer and closer to town, my stomach was threating to come out of my mouth with the feeling of dread.
Not to be anticlimactic, but it was just like a normal day in town! All the businesses were open, people were working and life was happening. I don’t want to minimize the devastation as lives were lost and many were injured. However, my frame of reference for an earthquake comes from my past experience in 2010 when almost all the houses were flattened, people were dead in the road, without phone service, electricity, water, gas and living in complete destruction. The loss of life and damage isn’t the same today, but the emotional toll is exactly the same.
The government is responding but not with a full-out relief response we experienced before and there aren’t huge amounts of aid coming in. People currently need engineers to assess their homes and materials to repair and rebuild. Roseline’s house now has large cracks in the foundation and will have to be rebuilt. She lives in the countryside so the foundation is made of large rocks and cement. The walls are supported by wooden poles, with smaller rocks and mortar and then a thin cement coating. Roseline had lost her father 3 months ago and things are tough for them right now.
In the face of the difficulties, CVM’s investment in relationships and people make it worthwhile as we witness what the students at AgHorizon are doing for Roseline. We teach the students they need to invest in their communities and to support their classmates. The graduates and students have all decided to each buy a sack of cement to give to Roseline to help rebuild her home. This is a huge sacrifice for many as materials are expensive and hard to find. What a bright spot of JOY in my heart seeing this fruit in the midst of chaos. This will advance their communities and the country of Haiti not only in veterinary medicine but with life in general.
Thank you for being a part of the CVM family! Sometimes you might realize what your donations are doing if there isn’t a specific project happening, but they are doing more than you will ever realize. Your gifts are investing in people, creating relationships and showing the love of Christ in practical and meaningful ways!
For more information about Christian Veterinary Mission, go to http://www.cvmusa.org