Three years ago, on January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit our homeland Haiti, destroying its capital city, Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas; leaving an impressive trail of death, injuries, destruction of homes, businesses, government buildings, architectural landmarks and more than three million residents permanently displaced.
About 30,000 earthquake survivors were evacuated to South Florida for medical and humanitarian reasons. Local governments, public and private institutions, community based organizations and the community at-large joined forces to welcome survivors, alleviate their emotional and physical hardships and ease their transition to the sudden lifestyle changes. Medical and mental care, housing accommodations, school enrollment for the children, cash and food assistance were part of the support afforded to these survivors. Strong advocacy by local community organizations led to Temporary Protected Status designation by the Department of Homeland Security to survivors. The designation provided survivors legal cover to live and work in the United States and become self-sustaining; a status they continue to enjoy until now. While Sant La, Haitian Neighborhood Center has been very successful in placing many survivors in meaningful employment opportunities, and in highlighting their courage and resilience in local publications, there are many other survivors who continue to experience untold hardships.
Sant La, and its partners documented the entire process of assisting the January 12th earthquake survivors in a report titled Community Partnership for Local Haitian Relief Efforts, published last year on the second anniversary of the earthquake. This report set forth the lessons learned and created a potential model to help any community dealing with the aftermath of a similar disaster.
In Haiti, however, three years later, while undeniable progress has been made-albeit modest- much more needs to be accomplished. In spite of the billions of reconstruction dollars pledged, tens of thousands of people are still living under tents. The visible signs of reconstruction are not sufficiently noted; the scars still are vividly present throughout the affected areas; and there is no measurable improvement in the lives of the people. Many Haitians living abroad, whether in North America, the Caribbean, Europe, or Africa, are perturbed by the Haitian government’s inability to leverage its skills and expertise and continuous lip-service about welcoming the support and participation of the Haitian Diaspora.
In commemoration of this forever unforgettable event, Sant La salutes the memory of all those who have fallen, Haitian and non-Haitian alike, and the courage of those who are still enduring the effects of this catastrophic occurrence. We express our heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has assisted us, in one way or another: blood, sweat, treasure or a simple word of comfort, in those times of immeasurable challenges and great despair.
While we want to take this time to reflect on our past failures and lost opportunities, we also want to start thinking about our way forward, focusing on what makes us great as a nation. We, at Sant La, implore all Haitians, inside and outside the country, to come together in an élan of patriotism and unity; and do all that we can, to take ownership of the rebuilding of our nation. We owe it to our fallen brothers and sisters. We owe it to our children. We definitely owe it to ourselves to reclaim our pride and dignity as the first black independent nation in the Western Hemisphere. Indeed, we owe it to our historic legacy.