Haiti: Life after the quake

The Focolare community in Haiti was featured in February’s Living City, which went to press just before the earthquake hit. Here’s what’s happening in the aftermath 

Haiti: Life after the quake 

By Emilie Christy 

“We are experiencing trouble on every side, but we are not crushed,” writes Sr. Marie Thé, a Focolare friend from Carice, Haiti. “We trust in God who loves us immensely. Our people will not die; they will live.”

After the January earthquake, many have left Port-au-Prince to find help in the north of the country, near the border with the Dominican Republic. “They arrived hungry, having lost all they had and nowhere to go,” says Wilfrid Joachin, Focolare local coordinator in Mont-Organisé, a city in the north. “The children in the Focolare international Adoptions at a Distance program are all safe, but almost every family experienced losses, because many relocate to the capital either for studies or for work.”

The Focolare community in Mont-Organisé  decided to build a welcoming center for families on a piece of land that was given to them years ago. In just a few days after the earthquake the US$47,000 needed to provide housing for twenty families has been already received. Meanwhile, a distribution center for clothing, food and medical help is being organized. Aid is channeled through the Focolare communities in the Dominican Republic, especially those closer to Haiti.

Putting aside years of prejudice and animosity between these two countries that share a single island, the Dominican Republic immediately opened its borders to receive injured Haitians into its hospitals, while many Dominicans traveled to Haiti to offer help. Many planes arrived in Santo Domingo with aid and specialized personnel, who then went on to Haiti by ground transportation. Only locally these acts of solidarity were covered by the media, calling attention to this explosion of sharing.

“Perhaps God wants us to wake up and look at our brothers and sisters who live next to us,” writes Bishop Francisco Ozoria, President of the Haitian Pastoral Commission in the Dominican Republic. “Maybe God wanted to call attention especially to the developed countries, so that they may open their hands and help this small country to come out of its extreme poverty. God makes life spring forth from the ruins — new life will rise  
through solidarity.”

Dr. Modesto Herrera, a Focolare member, along with other 150 doctors, nurses and volunteers, left the Dominican city of La Romana at midnight by bus, reaching Port-au-Prince at noon. Dominicans, Americans and Haitians traveled together to Haiti for five days.

“People were waiting for us at an Evangelical Church,” he says. “Some of us assisted in the shelters, while others worked in the hospitals. We cared for 300 people a day. The most beautiful thing was building relationships with them. ”

“Few like us, who have gone through an earthquake, can understand what you are going through,” wrote a group from L’Aquila in Italy to the Haitian community. “We tell you with all our heart: trust in God’s love and in your brothers and sisters. Everything has crumbled. Even Jesus on the cross, who felt forsaken by the Father, believed in his love and re-abandoned himself totally to him. Chiara Lubich has taught us to find our answers in Jesus Forsaken. Know that we, like the rest of the world, will not leave you alone in your need.”

“God does not take into consideration if a country is big or small,” Joachin answered. “God considers the world. Your letter tells us that even if we are in darkness, there is solidarity. I am a witness that God is very close to us. Today, like every Saturday, we met with 130 young people who try to live the spirituality of unity. We then split into four workgroups to share goods, provide services and visit the sick. Tell everyone that we must always live for unity.”

— with Maria Dalgarno and Maritza Vasquez 

For U.S. contributions, send checks payable to “New Humanity,” Attn: Help for Haitians, P.O. Box 11791, New Brunswick, NJ 08906. In Canada, send checks payable to “Focolare Movement,” Attn: Haiti Disaster, 16 Grantbrook Avenue, Toronto, ON M2R 2E7.

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