Here we are, already marking the second anniversary of the deadly earthquake of January 2010. Nonetheless, I remember the events as if it were yesterday. I had only been in the classroom for 45 minutes as part of my Master’s degree program in History, Memory and Heritage when misfortune hit an already destitute country. I could not quite appreciate at the time how this event would become closely intertwined in the history and memory of our country.
The collapse of the building where our class was held killed my friend; he and I had the same surname, were the same age and lived about 500 meters away from each other. The most superstitious would say that the dark, cloudy sky that day foretold a catastrophe.
The shock of 12 January
Until 12 January, I had been working for a news agency and a radio station. The tears and deep sighs, however, gave me a sudden desire to become a doctor or engineer; I simply wanted to help. When Oxfam offered me a job in its humanitarian program using my skills, I felt useful to the community again. Telling people how to access humanitarian aid from Oxfam – what to do and what not to do – can give hope to people who have lost everything.
When there is no tomorrow
Trying to make the most of each day as it comes is my new way of thinking. We do not know if tomorrow will come. We do what has to be done today. I think of my friend Jimmy Charles who had so much to look forward to and so many dreams, with a degree in law, 25 years old, studying for a Master's degree and yet he died without any warning: he and more than 250,000 others.
Today, it is clear that the situation which prevailed after 12 January has changed. Most of the debris has been removed. Oxfam also invested in this action with technical support from Disaster Waste Recovery in the Carrefour Feuilles community. The debris was removed and then crushed before being reused for paving, as the quality of the materials prevented them from being reused in construction.
My job as media officer at Oxfam allowed me to see how humanitarian aid changed lives. Whether it was through community canteens, programs to give money to the most vulnerable and to individuals wanting to restart their small businesses, programs for rehousing, building water and sewage infrastructures and particularly promoting good sanitary practices in around 123 camps to prevent the spread of waterborne diseases and those linked to poor hygiene conditions, Oxfam's staff stood out and it is always a pleasure to talk about them to my journalist friends.
Hope is reborn in the country
All the same, there is still much that is needed in day-to-day life. The physical reconstruction is slow and the construction of a Haitian identity has not started either. However, the positive energy which is evident in the speech of every Haitian in spite of the difficult conditions they face every day provides a ray of sunshine and a better future for everyone.