By ARNOLD A. AUGUSTE, Publisher
Haitians both at home and in the Diaspora must be wondering what they have done so bad to deserve such a history of devastation and pain.
Someone said that God doesn’t give us more than we can bear, meaning that he must trust the inner strength and resilience of Haitians to bear such torment.
“Maybe He shouldn’t trust us so much,” the individual added.
Haiti has been described by observers, mostly in the developed world, with some of the most unflattering terminology. But, those who understand the history of this country whose people defied their colonial masters two centuries ago to win their freedom from slavery, the first Black nation to declare its independence, look to the people with great respect and admiration.
Even now, amidst the horrific tales of disaster, there are stories of a remarkable people singing amidst the ruins of their city as if to say that even the forces of nature will not turn them around, cannot and will not defeat them.
There are such amazing stories of individual courage and determination. One elderly woman, in her seventies, is pulled from the rubble singing and praying after being buried for several days. Young Canadians tell of how the local people in the village to which they had come to offer assistance, in turn helped them to survive following the earthquake providing food, shelter and protection.
Yes, we grieve for Haiti. We watch the images on television of the widespread disaster and we weep for its people. But we also feel a deep sense of pride in their fortitude.
We are encouraged by the response of the entire world to the plight of Haiti.
The United States, always the first to respond to disasters around the world, began almost immediately to pour in the necessary resources – food, water, medicine and boots on the ground. Canada, also always quick to respond to human suffering, responded as much as our capabilities would allow airlifting supplies and personnel and sending two of our naval vessels to the area with further assistance and personnel.
But, there was so much more. Jamaica has sent in a team of specialists to assist; the Israelis have set up a field hospital; the Germans, the Turks, the Mexicans, Venezuela, teams from as far away as Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Iceland, China, Taiwan, Portugal, the Russians, the French, almost 50 countries, are represented on the ground together with the various aid and humanitarian agencies.
Some are still searching for survivors while the effort now turns mainly to attending to the needs of the living – the wounded, the hungry and the homeless.
Millions of dollars have been raised in this effort, both from governments and from individuals. Ordinary Canadians have donated almost $50 million to Haiti in just over a week. The federal government which has committed to matching those donations has increased its commitment to some $135 million.
Looking after the immediate needs of those in the affected areas is the priority right now. However, it is the long-term commitment that will determine the resolve of the nations of the world to return this country to a state of livability.
Once the cameras and news crews have moved on to other issues, maybe even other disasters, which seem to be occurring with increased frequency, what will become of Haiti?
There has been a lot of talk from those with the ability to help about their commitment to rebuilding the country. How much of that is just talk? How much of that will actually result in concrete action?
The developed nations of the world have neglected Haiti for far too long. Will this disaster be the catalyst to move them to action? It will take a major commitment on their part. And it will take much more than the millions of dollars being raised and committed for disaster relief. In fact, some estimates peg the cost of rebuilding Haiti at $10 billion.
Are they up to the task?
For Haiti’s sake, we hope so.