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Relief. Renew. Rebuild. IPCR student responds to earthquake in Haiti

France Francois MA/IPCR ‘10

As the news coverage of Haiti wanes, Haiti should not ever again be reduced to a talking point: “e poorest nation in the Western hemisphere.” e millions of members of the Haitian Diaspora here in the U.S. only know it by one catch phrase: home. us, there are no words that I know of that can vividly capture the emo- tion I felt when word of the earthquake in Haiti reached me. Even the Creole word shagren, which is used to describe a sorrow so deep that it causes one to wither away, cannot properly capture the feeling I felt at that moment. Stunned, I pulled the car over to the side of the road to digest what I’d just been told. Suddenly, I felt the

weight of more than 200 years of freedom, triumph, and tribulation pressing down on my chest. I felt inexplicably endangered; as if, by the stroke of a pen or the stirring of a strong wind, all my people were dying.

I collected myself, wiped away the tears and drove home as quickly as I could. As I watched the CNN broadcast of the devas- tation, I sobbed for every body I saw, every forlorn gaze the camera caught, and every Creole exclamation I overheard in the background. In the first few days, I called my father’s Haitian cell phone repeat- edly only to hear a busy signal. With no word from my family on the island, I soon found myself unable to watch the gritty coverage for fear of seeing a familiar face amongst the dead bodies lining the streets.

As the death tolls rose, I felt frustrated and helpless. I, along with thousands of other Haitian-Americans, threw myself into the relief efforts to fill the void of not knowing, or being unwilling to face the truth. We had to keep busy to keep sane. Idle hands led to idle thoughts, which were too much to bear alone. Each time we gathered, we’d detail the news we’d heard thus far. is person didn’t make it. is person had lost all their family. at build- ing from my childhood is now gone. is family had lost its home, its livelihood.

  • e sense of collective loss was overwhelm-

ing. We mourned each loss as if it was our own and celebrated each person found as if they were our final remaining descendants.

  • at weekend, the relief efforts culmi-

nated into a large Earthquake Survival Kit Drive at the Haitian Embassy. After being stuck in traffic for an hour in Dupont Circle, I finally parked my car, lifted my relief supplies out of the trunk, and walked over to see what was preventing me from getting my supplies to the Haitian Em- bassy. As I approached the embassy, I was truly touched to see people from every background, every class and creed, getting out of their cars and walking alongside me to donate supplies. In the faces of all those people and in the mountains of supplies the Haitian Embassy and the Haitian people received that day and continue to receive, I was reminded of a Haitian proverb: “Men anpil, chay pa lou.” Many hands [make] the load lighter. Now, as the news of the quake fades from our sight, lets us not let the 200,000 lives lost fade in vain from our memory as well. I encour- age the IPCR community and all others to tirelessly work alongside the Haitian people towards Relief, Renewing, and Rebuilding Haiti.

France Francois was raised in the vibrant Haitian community of Miami, FL. She has worked extensively on issues facing the Haitian- American community and also functioned as the Research Assistant for the current chair of USIP s’ Haiti orking Group. Although France is currently pursuing an MA in IPCR with a focus on Middle East conflicts, in her personal

time, she remains active in her community.

  • e map at right demonstrates the location of the Haitian earth-

quake which occured on January 12th. Over 200,000 individuals lost their lives as consequence of this 7.0 magnitude earthquake

(photo courtesy of http://www.boncherry.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/haiti-earthquake- map.jpg).

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