WRITTEN BY MELISSA GILES
HAITI: FIVE YEARS AFTER THE QUAKE - An excerpt from the journal of Melissa Giles.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I arrived in Port au Prince a few weeks ago.
The last time I stepped foot in the country of Haiti was about five years ago - only weeks after the 2010 earthquake. For obvious reasons, the country at that time was still in a state of shock, grief, mourning, and trying to find normalcy and stability after a horrific, indescribable event.
This time flying into Port au Prince, old memories flooded to mind, and I found myself, once again, overcome by the heavy emotions of those three short weeks back in 2010. At that time, my experience working in Haiti was a struggle. I had returned home to Canada in 2010 with a feeling of unfinished business and an unresolved sense of purpose in going.
It was only natural that, in returning, I began to think about what this new experience would mean, how it would change my perspective on Haiti. There were things that I knew would be different.
The drive from the airport to the Food for the Hungry (FH) Haiti office revealed some notable changes. Port au Prince has had major rebuilds over the past four years, and the rubble lined streets I had once experienced were now gone.
But the real emotional impact hit me as I traveled to Cachiman, an area in the Belladare region close to the Dominican Republic border.
Since my initial trip to Haiti, just after the quake, this small nation has held for me a lingering sense of darkness, of heaviness. But on the road to Cachiman, light began to crack through that darkness, illuminating things I had never seen before.
Where previously I had seen death, mourning, uncertainty, instability, and insecurity - I now found hope. Don’t get me wrong, by all external signs the people of Cachiman are what we would categorize as “vulnerable people”. But, they have hope. They have a strong desire to see change - personally, familially, communally.
And as I talk with people, I get the sense that they believe things can change, that life doesn’t have to be the way it’s always been.
In the wake of 2010’s unparalleled devastation, the men and women of Cachiman, Haiti have found the hope to dream big, the strength to move forward, and the joy to live again.