“I HAVE AN UNCLE who owns a general store, so he has rice and food and water and all that kind of stuff. The first thing I’m gonna worry about: He doesn’t have the best law services. He has a couple shotguns just sitting in there as his protection. And I’m thinking to myself, I wouldn’t hold it against anybody if you just survived an earthquake have to provide for your family if you have to kick in a window and steal,” says Rosmy Darisme, a third year Multidisciplinary Studies student, from Archaie, Haiti. “You can’t really be mad at somebody for only looking out for themselves. The government doesn’t really look out for them ... and you just survived something crazy.”
On Tuesday, January 12, a massive earthquake struck Haiti. With a preliminary magnitude of 7.0 quake and a series of strong aftershocks, this earthquake is the worst the region has seen in more than 200 years. Reducing much of Haiti’s capital city of Port-au-Prince to rubble, it is estimated to have killed as many as 50,000 people on the first day alone. The total number of deaths continues to increase as the country struggles to regain order and rebuild.
“They say the death toll’s still rising. I literally watched on ‘60 Minutes’ how they had to scoop up the bulldozer and knock them into mass grave sites just because their bodies are rotting,” says Darisme. His family farm in Archaie is about 25 minutes outside of Port-au-Prince. Darisme spent the first five years of his life growing up there. “Especially with that aftershock yesterday or the day before, buildings that were half up are now completely down. People are still homeless.”
Darisme’s godsister who lived in Port-au-Prince was one of those who were caught in the rubble following the earthquake. Though the family initially held out hope that she had made it, it has since been discovered that she passed away. Darisme’s mother had been trying to bring her to the United States for the past five years, but she was repeatedly denied a visa. He expects that the large influx of refugees trying to become U.S. citizens will make the process even more difficult.
Darisme’s family home is still standing, and his parents are fortunate enough to have satellite phones, so Darisme has been able to keep in contact with them. Though Darisme’s Uncle Gene — the one with the general store in Port-au-Prince — was missing for several days, they eventually tracked him down. “His house is gone. His store is gone — I don’t know specifically whether it was looted or not — but he’s okay,” says Darisme.
Although he is anxious to hear about new developments in Haiti, Darisme largely avoids watching American news media such as CNN. He is bothered by their overly simplistic characterizations of living conditions within the country, which tend to greatly overstate the level of poverty.
“It’s not just a bunch of people eating mud cakes,” says Darisme, shaking his head. “Technically speaking, yeah, we don’t manufacture that much. But there’s not that much need for money in Haiti. There are other ways to adapt.” If kids want to play soccer but there are no balls around, for example, they might wrap a large grapefruit in multiple layers of socks and start a game. If people need a ride to the market but there’s no public transportation, they can find someone with a car and offer them a dollar to bring them there. “Even the people who really don’t have anything are proud of where they come from,” says Darisme. “It’s kind of hard to describe how much fun I’ve always had in Haiti; how family-oriented, how rich the culture is. I have a lot of love for my country.”
Someday, Darisme hopes he will be able to bring his 2-year-old son, Julian, back to Haiti with him. “When he gets old enough, I can’t wait to send Julian back so he can go out and he can have fresh mango right from the tree. So he can have a coconut. So he can go and see all the little lizards and fish and all the kind of stuff that are there ... It’s one of the prettiest places in the world.”
At least for now, Rosmy and Julian must wait.
HOW TO HELP HAITI
1. DROP YOUR SPARE CHANGE in the fountain at the entrance of the new Campus Center. At the end of the month, it will be collected and donated to Haiti Outreach Pwoje Espwa, a local non-profit volunteer organization which RIT supports. HOPE does community development work in Borgne, Haiti in the areas of health care, education and economic development.
2. TEXT “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10 to the American Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development Fund. This money will be charged to your cell phone bill. It will support emergency relief and recovery efforts in Haiti, which include deploying personnel, sending relief supplies, and providing financial resources.
3. IF YOU PLAN to donate online, check out http://charitynavigator.org before committing any money. This group evaluates the financial documents of charity groups to ensure that they are using donations in an honest and responsible way. Charities are given an overall rating from zero to four stars to reflect their financial health.