Sunday, January 17, 2010

Haiti on my mind

So this week it is all about Haiti. I first read about it in my pre going to bed 2am last email check up (sad but true). As with all tragedies, it is very difficult to really grasp the enormity of what has happened, and it is the details that make it come home.

I don’t have a long history with Haiti. As a matter of fact, I have never set foot in Haiti, but I was in charge of covering it from the UNICEF HQ for a few years, so I am familiar with its history, the devastation that continuous corrupt governments have brought on its people, its lawlessness, its yearly affront from nature in the form of floods and hurricanes. I was recently thinking again about Haiti because some friends of ours, Europeans of more or less the same age, with two young kids, 2 and 4, more or less the same age as ours, had decided to move there. This never came across as a good idea to me.

I continue to work in conflict countries and with children. The cause is close to my heart and to what I believe and hope can make a difference for a better world, albeit completely aware that the impact that I can have is minute, like providing a devastated beach with a handful of clean white sand. But this is what I believe in, and this is what I choose to do with my life.

Since my children were born I have tried to protect them from my lifestyle. Based in the Netherlands, they live in European luxury and security, while my husband and I travel back and forth to less fortunate parts of the world.

Of course, no one could have predicted this was going to happen. And the irony is that something like this can happen almost anywhere, for as much as you can predict floods and hurricanes in Haiti, there is no history of sysmic movement.

My friends are fine. They were in Miami at the time of the quake, family in full. Another friend had just come back from visiting her boyfriend. They too were spared. But it is through their eyes that I am somewhat able to grasp the magnitude of the disaster. It is through their posts, their tweets, their desperation to know the whereabouts of their friends and colleagues, their struggles to come to terms with how close they were to disaster, how they too could have easily been another sad statistic in this story ( ). As they struggle with homelessness, uncertain futures, and the guilt of both having been spared, and worrying about what to others would seem like a best case scenario. Struggling to see how they can make a difference.

As always, life goes one, in spite of the fact that for some, this week, has ended life as they know it. That this week, in their narrative, will forever be dark and desperate. The magnitude of their pain is something that I cannot understand, and hope that I never will.

We watch on, reading the news that drip out, fearing that lawlessness will lead to hell on earth for those who have already suffered too much, so much more than their fair share.

My heart goes out to them, in the hope that the Buddist and other religious teaching are right. That they will someday see their loved ones again. That this tragedy has meaning at some higher level, and not that they all died and suffered in vain.