Students visit struggling nation

A year ago today marks the anniversary of the earthquake that killed thousands and displaced many other inhabitants of Haiti. Many of these people have found hope in progress made to rebuild the country.

Doris Nordin, campus minister at the Newman Catholic Center, visited Haiti with a group of students from The Haiti Connection this winter.

“In general, in my experience in Haiti, it’s overwhelming the poverty that you see all over the country and the things that we take for granted, there are so many,” Nordin said.

When she first heard about the earthquake she was concerned since The Newman Center has many projects in Haiti including a sewing machine center and providing clean water. “We have a personal connection with them,” Nordin said. “Even if I hadn’t been there (before the earthquake), I felt so concerned for them.”

Daniel Rolando, a senior physics and economics major and member of The Haiti Connection, and Kevin Martin, a graduate business administration major and member of The Haiti Connection, traveled to Haiti with the Newman Catholic Center over their winter break.

Nordin, Rolando and Martin had never visited Haiti before this winter, but had witnessed the aftermath of the earthquake a year after it occurred.

“Before the earthquake they were a struggling nation, but the earthquake only intensified their living situations with each other, but it’s probably made some of them stronger,” Martin said.

Tent cities and rubble from the earthquake still occupy Port-au-Prince

Damage from the earthquake still exists as Nordin explained many people had taken residency in tent cities. Rolando described the cities as temporary living that looked as if it were only to last for three months, not a year.

“Basically any space that was open, like any parks, any public place; 100 percent filled with tent cities,” Rolando said.

Besides tent cities, the Port-au-Prince area has still not been fully restored.

Rolando said many of the buildings are still “pancaked on top of each other.”

Stories of earthquake and aftermath

The group’s translator shared his recollection of the earthquake with Nordin.

He shared with her that he was in class on the fourth floor of a building when the earthquake started. The building had started collapsing. The guide ran to the second floor of the building and jumped from there to the street because the first floor of the building had already collapsed by the time he escaped.

“(The guide) said at this point, where buildings are still destroyed, he said sometimes you find bones,” Nordin said.

After the earthquake, the main guesthouse that Rolando and the group had stayed at as well as a near by soccer field, had been used as an emergency medical area.

“The main kitchen table, they were using as an operating table,” Rolando said.

Hope after the earthquake

After death and destruction caused by the earthquake Nordin, Rolando and Martin said the people of Haiti have found hope.

“It’s overwhelming the poverty that you see, but it’s also beautiful to see so many signs of hope,” Nordin said.

These signs of hope can be seen in the gradual steps, like replanting trees, that have been taken to better the communities affected by the earthquake.

“I never understood hope as much as when I went to Haiti. That is hope,” Nordin said. “For me hope became a reality. I always thought that hope was like a wish, now I think hope is action, action that we can do from here because we can make many things happen in Haiti from here.”

Rolando said The Haiti Connection has two main communities where they sponsor projects.

“It is more about interacting with the people as opposed to going down and doing a service project. It’s really about walking in solidarity with our Haitian brothers and sisters,” Rolando said.

He said the people of Haiti are some of the happiest people that he has met because they are just happy to be alive.

Martin said he witnessed the people of Haiti trying to get by with what they have. Martin said he saw many of the people trying to make a living by selling objects on the street, washing cars and filling tires with air.

“They’re always looking to the future and they’re not dwelling on the past,” Martin said.

Sam Bohne can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]