This is my first entry on this blog about something other than Trouble. Not that she isn’t absolutely fabulous and blog-worthy any more, I have simply decided that there are more things in my life worth writing about. One of those is my upcoming trip to Haiti.
Now that I have been at my new job for five weeks (though only three of those I was actually working), have been married for three weeks, and am fully settled back at home, I am more than ready for the Haiti trip and preparations are in full swing. I am starting the journey September 30th, flying from Washington D.C. into Port-Au-Prince, followed by a three hour car ride across the mountains to Jacmel. My trip is organized through a non-profit organization called Global Volunteer Network (GVN). To read more about the program visit http://www.globalvolunteernetwork.org/haiti.
Haiti’s history has always been turbulent and it’s need for aid is not new, but since the earthquake on January 12th, 2010 its needs are even more urgent. Every time I see footage and hear or read reports of the devastation in areas such as Port-au-Prince and Jacmel -that now are home to many shantytowns crowded with hundreds of thousands of people attempting to escape the cycle of rural poverty, disease and death – I want to go there and take part in the international aid response that is needed in the earthquake rehabilitation process.
Shortage of food, water, and shelter, poor weather conditions and disease are devastating problems at the moment, but just as important as physical well being is the emotional trauma Haitians are going through. We know that children are especially vulnerable to trauma, however, it has been found that through play and creative activities they are more likely to cope with such stress. This is where I will play a role. As requested, my volunteer work will include working in an orphanage, with some teaching and recreational work, helping to set up classes and activities within the camps to give people stimulation and purpose, occupy their time with pleasant activities, and aid people in reforming family and community ties. Bit by bit, Haitians are rebuilding their lives and country, and I am very fortunate that I can be a small part in that process.
I will be stationed in Jacmel, located on the South-East coast of Haiti on the Caribbean sea, approximately 45km from Port-au-Prince. Before the earthquake, Jacmel had an estimated population of around 40,000 people, and was seen as one of the most picturesque and culturally rich towns in the nation. Jacmel was famous amongst both Haitians and tourists for the annual film and music festivals held in its charming streets.
Jacmel suffered extensive damage in the earthquake, and they say that it will be a considerable time before it resembles what it once was. Blocked off from receiving aid for the first 10 days due to damaged roads, Jacmel was plunged into despair. Hospitals, roads, transport and communication systems were shut down. Too scared to return to their houses even if they were still standing, people were forced to sleep in the streets or in make shift camps and shanty towns. Most still are.