Edmund Lo, the other Jesuit novice, and I arrived in Haiti on January 5th, and we came with the intention of being here until June 1st. We already started working at the Jesuit-run high school, St-Ignace, for grades 7 to 12, two days after arriving at Port-Au-Prince. We were supposed to teach English, Organic Chemistry, and also lead the physical education program, organizing basketball practices.
On the day of the earthquake we were at our house. Edmund and I were on the second floor when the floor literally began to ’swim’. There were loud crashes around us as both of our neighbours’ houses collapsed and a third house was partially damaged. Our house was left unharmed except for a few cracks but these aren’t very serious.
Right after the earthquake, many injured and wounded Haitians came to us and we cleaned and tended their wounds with our first-aid kits, that is, with water and rubbing alcohol, as well as with iodine. The wounds were mostly to the head as the ceiling most likely fell on their heads. Some wounds were as big as 1.5 cm wide and the skull was visible. They were very serious.
Currently there is much aid coming in but they are not at the level of distributing it. At our local level we haven’t seen any of the aid, nor have other local districts. I hear that the port is damaged and so it is taking a long time for them to come in. Also the airport is very small and so a limited number of planes can land.
Surprisingly, the mood isn’t that negative. People sing at night, mostly religious hymns, they dance, and they try to stay positive, though there is a tension in the air because of the lack of food. None of the supermarkets are open! The only food that can be bought is off the streets, where people sell fruits, vegetables, etc. For 2 million people, this isn’t enough! Water is also scarce. But today they finally opened the water station in the neighbourhood, though I don’t know how long the water will last since they have to deliver it on a regular basis.
People are afraid to be indoors, though some houses remained untouched. As for my community of four Jesuits, three of us, Edmund, Ramiro (a Spanish Jesuit) and myself, all stay indoors for the night and we are not scared that the house will cave in. The fourth member, a Haitian Jesuit, is very scared to enter the house at times. So he sleeps outside, in the car on the street.
I have noticed the Haitians are afraid of the earthquake coming back with a big bang and bringing all the buildings down again. So they are all out of their houses during the day and sleep in fields and in front of their houses at night. They call us three Jesuits ‘crazy white people’, because we sleep indoors at night.
Today Edmund and I went to work with the Missionaries of Charity (the religious community founded by Mother Theresa). We went down into the slums to tend to the wounded, giving out medicine and antibiotics, cleaning wounds, as well as giving out clothing etc. We also helped transport very wounded people to the hospital. We are doing our best.
That’s about it for now.
National Jesuit News is urging people to give to the Jesuit organization Jesuit Refugee Service to help those in Haiti.
To support JRS/USA’s humanitarian response to the emergency needs of the Haitian people, please click here to be directed to their secure website and choose “Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund.”
Or you may send a check to:
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA
1016 16th Street NW Suite 500
Washington, DC 20036
Checks should be made payable to “Jesuit Refugee Service/USA.”
Please clearly note “Haiti Earthquake Relief” in the memo field on the check.