SPECIAL REPORTS

Choosing Praise

Even as the destruction and death surrounds them, the Haiti people are lifting up their hands to say thanks to God and lift up p

Haitians gather at Champs de Mars public square to lift hands up to God in a time of mourning. © Liliane Pierre-Paul 2010

A small boy sits under a tarp in a tent city...one of a multitude of set ups in Haiti where people are now living. © Flickr photo 2010

They came to the country’s central meeting place, one where its most enamored public institution was completely ruined, as part of a dedicated mourning of the lost, but the scene here looked more like a celebration as people let the hands in the air and shouted praises to the Lord.

Haitians that came here, gathering in Champs de Mars public square, across from where the country’s palace was completely destroyed, let out tears but also sang and danced, choosing to bring joy into a somber moment. Greatly on the minds of those gathered, no doubt, were the estimated 212,000 people that have died in this disaster, but the mood in Port-au-Prince, according to reports, was more joyous that sorrow-filled.

The special mourning/celebration was held to commemorate the one-month mark after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck here. Nearly every search and rescue team has completed its respective search, much of the rubble has cleared and deceased bodies put to rest, some officially, some as part of mass graves, while many of the victims have been at least by now been identified…within this environment, wearing black arm bands, the Haitian people came together to weep and cheer.

"It is by the grace of God we are still alive," said 40-year-old Venite Constant, who lost a sister, a brother and several friends in the Detroit Free Press. "And it is by the grace of God we will become a better nation."

Hard to believe that it has been a full month since a 7.0-magnitude earthquake sent Haiti into a tailspin, its infrastructure demolished to include more than a million homes, its primary port facility, a handful of hospitals, much of its roadways, and electrical system.

Progress is being made slowly but surely. Spearheaded by the United Nations and U.S.AID and a number of other relief agencies, distribution centers have been opened up throughout Port-au-Prince as well as medical triages. Ground transportation is now possible again and the port facility is nearly restored, at least to a functioning level.

Temporary living, to provide shelter for the nearly 1.2 million homeless, has been the key focus of the rebuilding efforts. Tent cities have been sprouting up throughout Port-au-Prince. The tents are made out of the anything from bed sheets to table cloths to national flags, pitched primarily with branches. The lucky ones have tarps that provide better shelter from the conditions, especially as rainy season soon approaches. Sadly, only 5 percent of the internally displaced areas have proper sanitation, which is making diseases in these areas likely.

But the people in these tent cities, for the most part, have started life over. They have chosen to make their tent, however it is constructed, home. They sweep it and tend to it, as if it were a dwelling with four walls. Around them, they build community, by linking hearts with neighbors and sharing what they have. Some sell goods on tent corners, leading way to a small marketplace and economic system within these tent villages.

Still others victims are moving outside of Port-au-Prince to the unaffected villages, causing an influx there that those villages can’t handle. According to the Detroit Free Press, in the villages and cities outside of Port-au-Prince, an estimated 500,000 refugees have flooded in; in the coastal city of Les Cayes, the United Nations estimates there are nearly 2,000 refugees entering each day.

Yet, even with continued troubles in delivering aid and resources to those in need, there are positive reports from non-profits working on the ground. From Operational Blessing International: “The water purification unit in Dadadou is running great, and we brought a team of Israeli post-trauma experts from IsraAid with us to serve the camp's children by interacting with them and engaging them in activities.”

Samaritan’s Purse has been concentrating on the city of Cite Soleil, where it has provided blue tarps and also food. Last week, the faith-based non-profit was able to give 583 tons of food to 23,322 families/139,932 individuals to Cite Soleil.

Other areas of praise are that reports say the city’s commerce in Port-au-Prince is slowly resuming. People are frequenting the markets, though prices are soaring due to scarcity of products.

Reports say the Port-au-Prince airport will resume to international traffic again later this week.

Progress is occurring, indeed, some areas quicker than others. The mourning process will continue for many of these families here, for some time. Doctors, scientists, politicians, children with dreams…all part of the ones whose lives extinguished before they saw full fruition. Even in the hardship and heartache, the people continue to lift their hands and their hearts above to the Lord.