the new haiti

February 9, 2010

Oddly, the most striking thing about day one in Haiti was seeing our plane being directed in by Americans. It was like a slap in the face that everything has changed—that this is no longer the same Port-au-Prince. We arrived via a small plane from the Dominican Republic, flying low over semi-collapsed buildings and massive tent camps. From an aerial view, the sloped and jagged concrete and lots scattered with debris looked peculiar and fascinating—but not real. As we began to descend lower and lower the perspective shifted, revealing that these were individual’s homes, churches and livelihoods. Upon arrival, the mass of foreign government and UN presence made it feel we were entering an occupied country, or a camp at the edge of a war zone. We exited past a makeshift table for customs—just one of many attempts at order and normalcy shadowed by a cracked building and armed military personnel.

Driving into the city, the reality of it all began to set in deeper. Regardless of how much I had seen and read about from afar, being here seems like I’m learning of the horror for the first time. As we passed toppled buildings that spill out into the street, my mind started to wonder what was underneath. As my co-worker said, “It’s not just a building that collapsed.” We passed the largest IDP camp in the city—blocks of sprawling tents and temporary food stands outside. It is hard to swallow that the individuals living in those conditions are some of the lucky ones.

Tomorrow, the real work begins. I’m hoping to ride along to see what World Relief is doing to respond—wells, water distribution, temporary shelters and healthcare. But I’m most looking forward to meeting with our brave staff, and seeing for myself that they are alive.

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