Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Little I Know About Haiti

Hey all,

So my dad suggested that I let you guys know what I know about Haiti. I'm sorry to disappoint, but that is a very short book. Here is what I have experienced here over the last few months and in particular in the last week.

So Haiti and the Dominican Republic share an island called Hispañola. Haiti is considerably poorer than the Dominican, so many Haitians come here to find work. There appears to be a lot of animosity towards them, and many of them occupy very low income jobs (readers, these generalizations make me uncomfortable to write, so know that they are not true of all Haitians or Dominicans, and are based solely on my own experiences and perceptions). I know personally 4 Haitian people, two who work in my school, one as a teacher and one on the maintenance crew, and two who are brothers and own a fruit stand nearby. You all may remember Sergio who I buy fruit from and have talked about before.

During the earthquake I didn't feel anything, but many of my friends did, including Brigitte who lives in the same building that I do. I heard accounts of it ranging from 20 seconds and being barely noticeable to it being 1 minute and a little scary. As I didn't feel it I'm not really sure the truth of it, probably a lot depends on the kind of building you were standing in. Anyway, after the earthquake we said a prayer in school for the Haitians (it's a private school) and the administration made up a list of what the people of Haiti needed and assigned each grade an item to bring. The sixth grade brought cans of tuna, but the list also included many other canned foods, bottles of water, medicine, etc. It was suggested that we not bring clothes or money to donate. Clothes because they were not an immediate need, and money because it has a way of getting lost. Trucks came to the school and picked up the items and carried them over to the border, where presumably other trucks took them into the country. From what I have heard the border is closed at this point. The school is continuing to gather supplies and medicine to send.

As for the Haitian people that I know living in the DR they have had a very hard time getting in contact with their family members because of the lack of working cellphone towers, phone lines, and computers due to the earthquake. I heard that the man who works on the maintenance crew went back to Haiti last weekend to find his family, but he was in school on Monday so I am not sure. The fruit vendors told me that some kind of emergency service has been set up to help people locate their families, but I am not sure what it is or how it works. The worst part for people in the Dominican Republic seems to be not knowing.

As for Haitian/Dominican relations it seems that this disaster has brought the two countries together. The DR seems to be offering a lot of aid at least from an individual standpoint, and the Red Cross here is working hard to help as well. I'm not sure what is happening from a governmental standpoint, but the tensions that existed before between Haitians and Dominican seems to at least temporarily have lifted. Again that is just my perspective.

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