Sunday, February 07, 2010

Letter from Carla in Port au Prince

Carla is one of the friends I was worried about when the earthquake hit Haiti. She has lived there for over 20 years and shows no signs of ever leaving. It is her beloved home. She is pictured here with neighbours as well as students from the US, listening to fellow N a Sonje founder Ari Nicolas. This is a note Carla sent out two days ago.

I am and continue to be overwhelmed by all of the messages of love and support since almost the first words indicating there had been an earthquake here. It was so overwhelming the first time I saw all the messages, I literally ran away from the computer as sobs started to rise from my chest to my throat as I realized that in the cries for knowing about us was because it was all too possible for us to be those under the rubble. Those emotions are constantly running through our brains and hearts almost numbed by our blessing both in being alive, having a house in tact and all of our closest friends still alive though many without homes.

Our home has been full, our guesthouse full, our yard full, always in a constant flux of different folks knowing they have a refuge with us and yet wandering the remains of buildings and places looking for family or friends. Now there is the wonder of what next, where will the next day come from, not only the next mouthful, but what thing will be there to hang a life onto in the world out there after you wake up. The 3 basics of any structure for a society have fallen, the state, the church and the schools, what's left are just dreams. How it will all unfold is the question, will the world just take over the country and the Haitian way of life evaporate the way Port-au-Prince has. Will there be Haitians left after those who can leave do? The president of Senegal and of Benin have opened their doors to Haitian, offering land for free. Welele, the young man who has lived with us for the past 4 years or so, is ready to go, he says after 200 years of not getting it together, it's time to leave. The country is naked before the world, the corruption and lack of vision of her leadership is clear as the dust settles and the world stands stunned at the devastation that Haitians themselves have known they've been living in for a long long time even before the quake.

Ah me, there are so many reflections going on every minute and every hour.

I have begun to work in a coalition of small ngo's who are working with a team of Haitian animators or community facilitators to try and find base communities in the places that now have camps so that they get connected to the humanitarian aid coming in but get it in a way that it doesn't cause damage, which most of it really does other than fill the hole of hunger as free stuff causes fighting, jealousy, stealing, selling, etc in the best of times. The coalition's intentions are to build the capacity of the base community organizations that are working in the camps of thousands, organizing the wounded, the sick, the children, the pregnant women and are looking for their basic needs, water, sanitation, medical care, food, and TENTS!!! The rainy season is almost upon us and it is almost certain there will be more deaths as there are so many just under sheets in these camps, especially the babies. It is amazing though the incredible capacity that so many of these organizations have in spite of all this disaster, this is evident and something of hope for the country to build on. The really important place now is the countryside, that's for sure and where the expertise of the animators we have known for years can be of the greatest help. The coalition is working to keep the channel open between these grassroots organizers and visionaries and the international communities that are flooding the country to keep the Haitian voice funnelled into the heavy powerful money and aid organizations, it's quite a challenge. The day of big egos, big potential for investments is upon the country and it can either go for the benefit of the Haitian dream or the profiteers.

One of our own dreams is to work in education right here in our community as there is a true need to get children back into a routine but with something very valuable to themselves, education. We've always known that education doesn't necessarily happen within 4 walls and what a better time to try it out. We had a very informal summer camp that was pretty successful with hardly anything but good will, so we think that if we can brainstorm about how to form little mobile groups of children in age groups to circulate in the community, going to where there are people who can give training, knowledge, music, dance, art, science, making the whole community participate, especially the elders, using Creole and making our own texts using their own stories, it might be a place to begin again with the human resources right at our fingertips! The vision of N'a Sonje--to remember, to heal, to go forward--may find its place right here in Gwo Jan. There are some burgeoning organizations in the past 6-9 months that were beginning to get a feel for what that means and we hope that with Leres, our long time animator/friend, we can get more training on all kinds of organizations, especially cooperatives, we will see.

If you are interested in helping in some way, Beyond Borders is helping to sponsor this coalition approach and efforts, as well as their own great programs. You can check out their website: , the coalitions google group that is just getting started:

There is one story that has given me inspiration. There are so many stories of survival going around, especially as they kept finding people alive underneath the rubble after so many days. One last one was a young person, I didn't hear the story myself, though many people heard in on the radio, was pulled out and still alive after more than 14 days. When asked how did they make it for so long, the young person responded by saying that every day an old man in white with a long beard came and gave them a piece of bread and sugar water! However you want to understand it, it is a story of faith. This is my inspiration at this point because it feels like we are under the emotional, spiritual, psychological rubble of despair and only as we keep the lines open to the source of all life will we be able to survive all of this! It'll be the only way to keep going by getting our spiritual bread and water of life every day under the rubble.

All my love and appreciation to everyone, I'm off to translate for an American getting stories of survival for an Irish ngo, Worldwide Concern. It's a paying job, yeah!

More soon, keep praying as the stress continues with rumors of more quakes, inondations, volcanoes, military occupation, etc keep running around!

yours always,

more when I can...

Video by Claire Karoly. It and parts 2-7 can be found on YouTube.


Creative Chronicler said...

What a heartwarming and profound letter. Very moving. Thanks for sharing it!

You have an award on my blog today.

Casey Wolf said...

Thanks, CC! I'm glad the letter hit home for you. And I took a page from your blog and passed the Award on to other deserving but not well known bloggers.