Friday, June 4, 2010


In the midst of all the worrisome press about the Gulf oil spill and the hurricane season that bears down on us, the thought that has come to my mind has been less the effect of cyclonic turbulence on oil plumes and more about what is going to happen if Haiti ends up in the crosshairs of some hurricane.

My college roommate was from an uber-rich Haitian family. She married down as they say. Her husband was just from a regular Haitian family. Okay, he got into Harvard Law but it didn't matter to her parents. Anyway, thinking of her family, his family and their family together, I can't help but imagine what their life would be like in present day Port-au-Prince. The NY Times has been running a series of articles penned by Damien Cave, NYT Bureau Chief in Miami. His articles detailing the frustration of Haitians six months after an earthquake destroyed the entire infrastructure of their country have been a painful reminder of how slowly things are improving. While some like Levy "Du Du" Azor strive for some semblance of order others, like Garnier Daudin, a 69 year old taxi driver or 22 year old shoe seller Manoucheka Walker, are frustrated because in order to rebuild, they would need the government to clear away the rubble that was their former property. In the meantime, so many in the capital and neighboring cities and villages live in rubble or in tents. Tent cities still cover so much of the capital and will provide no shelter from a hurricane or even from a tropical storm.

And meanwhile there is the daily reality of life in Haiti, no more clearly depicted than that lived by schoolchildren. Two photos by James Estrin just stuck with me from Friday's NYTimes photo gallery Faltering Hope.

Rachel Thomas helped her daughter Stephanie with her homework on the lot where their house used to stand. Credit: James Estrin/The New York Times

A school girl in Fort National walked to the remnants of her home. Credit: James Estrin/The New York Times

It's a sad statement about compassion fatigue that when I look at the images initially I think they look like so many you can see of war and disaster zones. But then I try to imagine what going to school every day in such circumstances is really like for these children. Even if they are young and adaptable and have families to go home to, what hope do they have for their future? What are they working and studying for? Where will they go when their capital still lies in rubble six months later?  Will it be the same a year or two down the road? I remember my friends Nancy and Jean and think of what their children would be doing if they were in Port-au-Prince. (They live in Illinois, thankfully) But I've plenty of other friends with family still struggling in Haiti. CNN had an article just today about the fact that so much of the middle class in Haiti has been rendered poor. 

What future lies ahead for these children, I wonder? Faltering hope, indeed. 

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