I can almost guarantee that once people hear that this was my second trip to Haiti since the earthquake, the first question that they will ask is something about whether or not anything has changed. Certainly if you watch any news shows, the situation doesnt seem to be any different. As we know by their coverage of diabetes, there is some truth to their reporting but they arent telling you the whole story.
Landing in Haiti last year (only six weeks after the earthquake), we were could immediately see a tent city spread across the tarmac. Military troops from countries around the world were patrolling the property. Haitians lined the airport exit gates waiting for help to arrive. This year, aside from a terminal that desperately still requires rebuilding, the airport was a much different place. The tarmac contained nothing but passenger and cargo planes. As we walked out of the terminal after dealing with customs and finding our bags, the only people waiting at the gates were the men in (fake) uniforms offering to help with our bags in exchange for money. (We got so used to avoiding eye contact and saying no that we walked past the guys that were actually there to meet us! Oops!)
We drove through the city on the way to the place we were staying and I noticed that there was a lot less rubble than last year. It didnt really seem like much rebuilding has actually taken place – there were a lot of buildings missing walls or with floors collapsed on each other, but the piles of concrete and rebar seem to have been relocated.
I remember taking a picture last year of a massive city of both tents and trash on a hillside overlooking a small stream of water. I was surprised when I looked through my pictures this year and found that I had taken a picture in the same location.
I dont think I have ever heard of anyone going to Haiti, spending time with the kids, and not having the desire to return after their trip is over. There is just something in their spirit that is contagious. Last year, there was this little girl at the place where we stay that I dont know how to describe other than – tough. She wanted you to play with her, but would pull your hair or hit you if you walked away. She demanded attention but made it so difficult for you at the same time.
When I saw her this year, I could NOT believe the changes in that little girl. She is probably at least 6 inches taller, has gained weight, and was such a joy to be around. I told her I remembered her from last year (in a combo of Creole and English because she is learning English in school and I am slowly building the Creole skills of a two year old) and that I could not believe how different she looked. She agreed with a smile and told me she had grown a lot. At the risk of sharing too much about her online, even her name suggests that there are big things in store for this little girl.
One of the other children who stole my heart last year was this precious baby boy. He was only a few months old in this picture.
I almost could not believe it when I saw him this year. Doesnt he look great?!
As much as I wish I could tell you it was all happy children and smiling faces, that isnt the real story. Throughout the cities and across the countryside, there are blue tarps as far as you can see. The wooden structures walls covered by the blue tarps brought in a year ago and built to last about that long are still the homes for thousands of people.
The country is plagued by extreme hunger. By extreme poverty. What would you do if a mother placed her child in your arms and told you to keep the baby because she thought that maybe you would be able to provide a better life for the child than she could?
It certainly would change your mind on what is important in life and how blessed you are.