"I will not leave you nor forsake you"
As MCC reflects on 60 years of work in Haiti, moments of hope are interwoven with deep loss. On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck just outside of Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince. The resulting devastation was felt throughout the country as family members were lost and homes were destroyed. For weeks after the earthquake, many slept outside in the streets, sharing meals and supplies, until homes were cleared to be entered or other shelter could be found.
While many remember the horrific loss from January 12th, in the days that followed, the Haitian people also remember the stories of strength, resiliency, and hope. As Haiti continues to rebuild, MCC staff and alumni remember the actions of their friends, family, and neighbors in those initial days of uncertainty following the earthquake.
Joseph Saingelus lives in Port-au-Prince with his wife and 3 children. He has worked for MCC in Haiti for 20 years and currently serves as Bookkeeper.
Hello everyone, my name is Joseph and I have worked for MCC for 20 years. I would like to share a short story of what I saw after the ground finished shaking and many people were injured or had died.
On January 12th, everyone was under pressure and everyone was searching for family members they hadn’t found, heard from, or spoken with. After this day, I saw how all of my neighbors were coming together to help one another find their families. I saw how they shared what they had with other neighbors. After the earthquake, there was a huge food problem, but everyone shared the food they had with those who did not have food.
I saw a neighbor who lived near me but had never been very friendly with other neighbors. After the earthquake finished, many people were injured or had died, and this neighbor became very caring toward everyone. We were all together in our small area. We spent our days outside for a long time because the house had a large crack in it, and there were many other people whose homes fell entirely. People were together sleeping in the same place, eating in the same place, and drinking the same place for a long time. Every time the tremors came, everyone would call on one person—only Jesus. Everyone saw that they were the same socially and spiritually.
The day after the earthquake, there was so much hope between all Haitians. They were only saying that the country was going to change because everyone was coming together. This was because they believed they survived for a reason and they wanted to share that reason—for people to have a perfect love for one another because they believed that unity could revive the country again after the catastrophe.
Herve Alcina lives in Laplenn, just outside of Port-au-Prince, with his wife and 5 children. He has worked for MCC for 9 years and serves as MCC Haiti's Logistics Manager.
What I remember about the Wednesday after January 12th is not really the destruction, but moreso the hope, strength, and energy in Haitians. People were supporting each other.
I remember two of my neighbors who were enemies for a long time. After January 12th, they became friends. They saw that, in time, things would be okay. Many people said, “God is faithful. I am here and I did not die.” They felt it was necessary to come together to live as brother and sister. They shared food, clothes, and clean water. There was a large movement of people coming together in my area, and in many other areas too.
Estere Alverno currently lives with her husband in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She worked with MCC in Haiti for 5 years as Senior Manager.
On January 12, 2010, a large earthquake hit Haiti, and mourning and desolation covered the country. Everyone thought that Haiti was finished because so many of the country’s children were underneath rubble, homes had been destroyed, and people did not have hope. This was the first time people in my generation had seen something like this. People who had faith began to lack faith and were incredibly worried about the future of the country. They thought all hope was lost.
In any country, things that bring hope to a nation are schools, trees, flowers when they bloom, and the way people live with one another. I want to share about the solidarity of the Haitian people.
In the day after the earthquake (people called it "goudougoudo," after the sensation of shaking), people were afraid. They did not have a place to stay. Everyone was in the streets staying under tents in public spaces or on vacant land. Many people had to return to the countryside to stay with family there.
The Haitian government did not stay still for long. They began to work quickly after the earthquake. They asked schools to open their doors again, and this brought people hope, seeing that life could return to the country. Children were happy to see friends and share their experiences with one another. After this, many people returned to work in Port-au-Prince. The way Haitians lived with one another brought hope again. Living together in these communities, people were praying together because many were still living in the street. They shared their food as well as their faith.
It was also the Lord who brought his touch to restore faith in the country of Haiti. Rain fell, and while this was a difficulty for many people, it was a sign that life was returning to the leaves and flowers, and people were able to find food to eat. The country started to become green again and people began to have confidence in themselves. You could see people smile even though their homes had fallen and they were staying under a tent or their family members had died.
Hope returned to Haiti little by little because the Haitian people are strong and have confidence in themselves.
In all of this, I have said above all what brought hope to Haiti after the earthquake. It was God who brought hope and confidence to Haitian people. It was God who restored the people and it was God who restored the country. Just as it says in Joshua 1:5, “I will not leave you nor forsake you.”