The House of Life: Chapter 2

I have been blessed to come to Haiti with FOTCOH six times now as a non-medical volunteer. I have been especially blessed to have a daughter of mine come with me for the first time on this trip. I love experiencing what has become routine for me through eyes that are experiencing Haiti, and the clinic, for the first time.

While the overall operation of the clinic has become routine, every day brings new people and situations. I am privileged to work with the crowd assessing patients before they enter the clinic. Some of the patients have become familiar to me, as I now remember their faces and sometimes even their names. I am sad when we hear of a patient whose case seems hopeless, and rejoice when a patient’s health improves.

On one of the first days at clinic, we saw a child who was only a month old and underweight and malnourished. The physician who saw the child sent baby formula home with the mother, and told her to bring him back in a few days, on the upcoming Saturday. The physician later told the team that the baby very likely would not live until then. When I went out into the crowd on Saturday morning, the mother and child were not there. I cried, because that meant that the child had probably died. Later, as we were winding up for the day, I looked up, and there was mom and baby! I cried again, this time thanking God for this tiny child that was fighting to survive. His chances are still not good, but I’ll continue to pray for this little guy, and I am hoping to see him at clinic in November.

-Ken, Non-Medical Volunteer
May 2015

 

*

What Barb would remember most about the first time she stepped foot in Haiti was the smell.

The Hammonds had just walked off a ship in Port-au-Prince when they were greeted by a Haitian tour guide. They were on a ten-day cruise through the Caribbean, and their boat would be docked in the city’s harbor for the afternoon. Dick and Barb had arranged for a tour, hoping to take in the local culture. The guide shuffled the couple away from the port into the busy streets. They both noticed immediately that Port-au-Prince was littered with garbage, and the crowds were immense—the press of humanity was stifling.

They arrived at their destination, a massive iron and metal building only a few blocks from the ocean. A large clock tower faced them, high above the entranceway of the building and the crowded street below, beyond which ran two long hallways. It was clear the structure had suffered badly from years of neglect and weather damage. Despite its dreary appearance, the building was still filled with bustling Haitians coming and going in all directions. The smell hit Barb immediately. The scent of sweat, rotten meat, and burnt coal enveloped them. The air felt heavy, as if they were walking through fog.

Outside the building, dilapidated wooden tables and worn-out blankets filled the sidewalk and spilled into the street, making the road impassable by car. Corn, cabbage, potatoes, grains, coal, shoes, and clothes were piled high off the ground. Women standing in the road pulled items out of baskets perched upon their heads, while others kept their goods in wooden carts. Fish and raw vegetables lay on top of tarps, covered in flies in the baking sun. The heat was strong and consuming.

The guide led Dick and Barb inside the building, threading his way through wall-to-wall people, down aisles so narrow they had to turn sideways to pass. Dick and Barb followed closely, not understanding where they were being led. The guide dodged mangy dogs in the aisles and ducked under endless rows of hanging dresses and pants. Dick and Barb didn’t know where to turn. There didn’t seem to be any organization to the place. So much was packed into the building it was astounding—a labyrinth of cheap household products, crafts, spices, herbs, perfumes, and beauty products. Meat hung from hooks suspended from the rafters—below the meat dangled the severed head of the animal to which it had been attached. Haitians stopped the couple, grabbed their hands, and shoved bracelets or canvas paintings toward them, trying to make a sale, while speaking in rapid Creole. It didn’t matter what they were saying—Dick and Barb couldn’t understand. They didn’t know the language.

 

They were being guided through the Marché en Fer, or the Iron Market. Located in the main commercial district of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, the Iron Market was packed daily with merchants ready to sell anything they could to try to make a living. The building had never been properly maintained, which just added to the misery of the whole scene—a decaying structure with thousands upon thousands of Haitians milling about, trying desperately to make a meager income. For many people, the market was their only chance at a livelihood.

The options for work in Haiti are sparse at best. In a country greatly affected by political turmoil, poverty, and lack of infrastructure, Haitians have few choices when it comes to employment. The unemployment rate in Haiti is over forty percent, and more than half of Haitians live in extreme poverty, trying to survive on less than one US dollar a day. Haitian women mostly work in the markets in an effort to support their families. Haitian men try to find work as farmers or construction workers, or, if they have transportation, they work as tap tap drivers, the Haitian term for a taxicab. Unfortunately, these jobs offer little security, are often dangerous, and require frequent travel away from home and family.

Dick and Barb didn’t consider any part of their tour fulfilling. In fact, the port stop in Port-au-Prince was nauseating for them both. Although seeing how Haitians made paintings and woodcarvings had been interesting, the poverty in Port-au-Prince was like nothing they had ever experienced, and it left them with a sour feeling so unpleasant that they wanted to get out as soon as they could.

It was 1974. The Hammonds had just seen Haiti for the first time. They knew instantly that they never wanted to go back.

 

*

 

Richard “Dick” Hammond and Barbara “Barb” Rothan both grew up in the 1940s and 1950s in and around Peoria, Illinois. Barb considered her childhood to be privileged. She was raised in a solid, loving family, who, although not wealthy, had most things that money could buy. Education was important to Barb’s parents, as well as faith and dedication to family. Barb parents set an example for her by taking care of their own parents when they were older, and she grew up with a strong consideration for helping others. By the standards for the time in America, Dick’s family was middle class. Although they weren’t wealthy, they had what they needed—a house, a car, and food on the table. Growing up, Dick remembered being aware of other children who didn’t have anything at home, and it was especially apparent to him around the holidays. He knew of families that didn’t have Christmas at all, and that stuck with him throughout his life.

Dick and Barb both grew up in the Catholic Church. The couple met for the first time in high school, when Dick showed up unexpectedly to a Halloween party at Barb’s house—he had only been invited at the last minute to even out the number of girls and boys after another boy had backed out. They married on August 17, 1957. Not long after, Barb’s father helped them secure money from the bank so they could build a house in Bartonville, a suburb of Peoria.

Dick and Barb both attended Bradley University in Peoria. Barb received her Masters of Education, and went on to become a first grade school teacher, a role she continued in for thirty-seven years. When Dick finished school, not many jobs were available. At the time, Dick’s father worked at Caterpillar, a major manufacturer of construction and mining equipment in Peoria. He offered to get Dick a job, but Dick declined. He had listened to his father talk about his job, and even though he knew it was an important one, Dick knew it wasn’t for him. He was worried he would turn out to be nothing more than a number within a large company like that, and he wanted more freedom with his work.

Instead, Dick accepted an offer to work part-time at an architectural woodworking facility, the George J. Rothan Company, which was owned by Barb’s father and her uncle, George Rothan Sr. The job was meant to be temporary, a means for Dick to get his bearings in the workforce. Temporary ended up lasting a long time—forty-five years to be exact. Dick eventually became partner of the company, along with Barb’s cousin, George Rothan Jr. When George and Dick took over the company, most of their clients were local, and the bulk of their business was providing millwork for residential constructions. They both worked hard to grow the business and expand their work nationwide. Eventually the company exclusively worked on large commercial buildings—projects such as courthouses, libraries, and colleges and universities. Two of Dick’s most memorable jobs were a college library in Oakland, California, and a college library in Connecticut. The work was very rewarding for Dick, and he was proud of all the company’s accomplishments.

Even before Dick and Barb were married, they knew they wanted to have a large family. After four years of trying to get pregnant with no success, adoption became the right option to fulfill their dream. Although they didn’t have in mind a certain number of children to adopt, they had always been impressed by stories of couples that took in numerous children. They were eager to start the process, because adopting meant that they would not only have a family of their own, but that they could also help children who were without a permanent home. They applied through a local adoption agency and anxiously waited to hear back, even after being told they could expect it to take up to two years before a child was available.  

But before the adoption agency had a chance to pair them with an adopted child, Dick and Barb brought home a foster child. It was 1961, and the young boy, William, was a student in Barb’s special education class. When it came to her attention that his foster family was no longer able to take care of him, Barb asked Dick if they could take William in so he wouldn’t end up back in the foster care system. Dick agreed it was the right thing to do, and they decided, if approved, they would take over as William’s foster parents. William was eight years old when the state decided he would move into the Hammonds’ household.

In 1963, Dick and Barb got their first call from the adoption agency, nearly two years after applying, just as they had been told. They brought home Michelle, a small baby girl, and the second child in their family. Not long after, to their surprise, the agency had another child available for adoption, if they were ready. They felt prepared to take in another child, and they adopted a little boy named Matthew. Then, shortly after Matthew came to live with them, they got another call—a girl, Melissa, was in need of a home. All three children were under a year old when they were adopted. They had come into Dick and Barb’s lives so quickly, people would ask Barb which of the children were the twins, to which she would reply, “Your pick!”

Dick and Barb did not believe pregnancy was possible, so when Barb became pregnant with Martin in 1975, eighteen years after the couple was married, he was a surprise to the whole family. Barb was thirty-nine years old. Michelle, Matthew, and Melissa were in their early teens—William was already out of high school and working. The family was thrilled. Martin’s addition to their lives was a pleasure for them all.

For four years in the late 1970s, while raising their children at home, Dick and Barb also sponsored a refugee family from Vietnam, who had been relocated to Peoria due to political unrest. The family was large—a father, a mother, five children, and two grandchildren all arrived in the United States together. Dick and Barb owned a house they used as a rental property that was vacant at the time, so the family lived there. Barb arranged for doctor’s visits and helped the father and older daughter search for employment. The two found jobs in Peoria, and the younger children and grandchildren attended local schools. Barb taught the family English, and they became independent quickly, which Dick and Barb were proud of. The two families developed a close relationship, having dinner together on occasion—Dick and Barb were even honored guests at one of their daughter’s weddings.

 

Dick and Barb loved traveling as a family to show the children as much of the country as they could. They even found themselves repeating some of their vacations as the years went on, since Martin had arrived so much later than his siblings and they didn’t want him to miss out on the adventures. Breaks in the school year for Barb and the kids meant the family packed into the car, with a small fold-up camper trailer in tow, and hit the road. The camper went with them everywhere, for thousands of miles across the United States. It had a stove that could be carried outside and hooked up to the side of the camper, something modern and unusual in those days. The first time the family went to Oregon, in 1968, people from all over the campground strolled the Hammonds’ campsite to see the curious stove as Dick and Barb cooked hotdogs and burgers for the kids.

Dick usually took the family west of Illinois to vacation. He loved the mountains and the ocean, so any place was fine with him as long as one, or both, were included. They visited Maine, California, and Washington state—they drove into Canada sometimes as well. They visited with family on the West Coast, went camping in the Rocky Mountains, and drove to the Ruby Mountains. Dick felt it was especially important to take his family to visit Portland, Oregon. Dick had only lived in Portland briefly as a child, but the landscape had left a huge impression on him, and he wanted to make sure the children got to see the beauty it had to offer.

Dick was in the third grade when his family moved from Peoria to Portland. At the time, Dick’s father was a tool designer. When he took a job with Hyster Manufacturing Company in Oregon, he packed the family up and headed west. It was only a year and a half later that Dick’s father figured he was better off going back to Peoria to look for different work, and the family returned to Illinois. But Dick never forgot how much he loved being in Portland and how exquisite the scenery was to him. He loved the green lushness of the trees and the tranquility of the rivers. He loved the snow-topped mountain peaks and the deep blue-gray sea, which were so close in proximity to one another in that part of the world.

When Dick returned to Portland with his own family, he enjoyed showing them places that were familiar to him. He showed them the house that he lived in with his parents—it was much smaller than he remembered. He took them to Mount Hood. They hiked through the forests and visited the lakes. He showed the children the Columbia River and its waterfalls. He took his family to the Pacific Ocean, where from certain viewpoints, Dick could see just how near the coast and the mountains were to each other. He could stand in one spot and in front of him was the ocean and behind him were the mountains, and if he looked off to his side, he could see both at the same time, so close that it seemed as though they were touching. The mountains. The ocean. Together.

 

*

 

In 1970, a Catholic church did not exist in Bartonville, so every Sunday Dick and Barb traveled twenty minutes to the south end of Peoria to attend church. Getting the family ready for church was no small task. To simplify the process, Barb wrote down all the different schedules for Mass for every Catholic church on the south side of Peoria. Instead of making sure she had the children ready on time for a certain service, Barb would get the kids ready first and then determine which church they would be attending—early Mass at one church if the kids were dressed and fed early, or a later Mass at a different church if they were running behind.

Dick and Barb wished a church was closer to their home so they wouldn’t have to drive to Peoria each week, and they knew quite a few other families in Bartonville who felt the same. After some discussion, the families decided to form a group of interested community members to petition the bishop of the Peoria Diocese to establish a new church.

Dick and Barb dove headfirst into helping get petitions signed. After a few months of gaining support, the petitions were presented to the bishop. He agreed to back the new church and appointed a priest, Father Wellman, to lead the process. Dick and Barb were overjoyed by the bishop’s decision to support the new church, but even more delighted about Father Wellman’s appointment. They already knew Father Wellman from a church in Peoria, and they felt he was a great leader.

The bishop deemed the new church St. Anthony’s Church, and Father Wellman formed a parish council. He began hosting Mass in the auditorium of a local hospital, which he continued to do for a few years until land was donated from the diocese for the construction of the new church’s buildings. In 1972, the first building on the church’s property, the liturgical center, was completed, and Dick and Barb, and the Catholic community of Bartonville, had a place to gather and worship, and call home.

Not long after the liturgical center was completed, Father Wellman and Dick were speaking with a visiting priest at the center, when Father Wellman introduced Dick as a “future permanent deacon.” Dick was astounded. Later that day, he asked Father Wellman if he was serious, and he said he was. He thought Dick would make a good deacon, having seen him play an instrumental part in the establishment of St. Anthony’s Church.

Dick had never considered a position as a deacon, and he wasn’t even sure what exactly about him made Father Wellman think he would be good at it. But the seed had been planted in his mind, and Dick couldn’t stop thinking about it. At home a few days later, he mentioned the conversation to Barb, and they talked about what Dick could offer to the Catholic Church. He knew he wanted to serve the community, and he and Barb started to feel like maybe it was his calling to become a deacon. Not long after, Dick applied for the diaconate program with the Roman Catholic Dioceses in Peoria. Nearly four years later, on December 12, 1976, he was ordained.

Dick enjoyed his role as a permanent deacon. He had no idea what he was capable of until he took on the task, and he found that he was able to do much more than he ever thought. He assisted Father Wellman with Mass, preached sermons, and taught classes at St. Anthony’s Church. He loved participating in marriage ceremonies and family baptisms. He was pleased to be part of the clergy and was fond of participating in community celebrations. Some of those experiences, the marriages of their children and the baptisms of their grandchildren, became the most memorable of Dick’s life.  

*

 

When Dick and Barb stepped off the cruise ship in Port-au-Prince in 1974, they did not anticipate that what they would see would be so disturbing that they would return to the boat early. They knew a little about Haiti, but it had never resonated with Dick and Barb how poor the country actually was or what life was really like for Haitians.      

To understand the plight of the Haitian people and the country, it is important to know the history of Haiti—so much of the present situation is rooted in the past. Starting from its earliest days, Haiti’s history reveals much about why today the country is plagued by poverty and political strife. Its history also gives insight into just how strong willed the Haitian people are, and how determined they are to survive.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on an island in the Caribbean Sea, which he named “Hispaniola,” current-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Inhabited by the Taíno civilization, the island was called Ayiti—“land of mountains”—by its natives. In the years after Columbus and his men claimed the land for Spain, a vast majority of the native people died as a result of assault, disease, and strain caused by slavery. By 1517, nearly ninety percent of the island’s 250,000 indigenous inhabitants had perished.

In 1697, the Spanish ceded part of the island, which would later become the nation of Haiti, to the French, who named the new country Saint-Domingue. The independent nation, only six hundred miles from the United States and approximately equivalent in size to Massachusetts, would become an extremely valuable exporter in subsequent years. By the 1780s, the country was producing about one-third of the world’s sugar and growing half of the world’s coffee, supported by the vast amount of slave labor imported from Africa. As the demand for slave labor increased, Saint-Domingue became the chief port-of-call for slaves moving from Africa to the Americas. By 1789, the country was made up of roughly 55,000 free people and 450,000 slaves. The slave population was dying continuously from illness, brutality, and overwork. Deaths outnumbered births, but when addressing this rapid loss, plantation owners found it cheaper and easier to import new slaves instead of improving the lives of those already in the country. The slave population continued to increase, as the gap in numbers between the free people and the slaves grew even greater.

The free population and the slaves were not the only distinct castes within Saint-Domingue—the free population itself was divided by social class and status. Wealthy white planters, powerful officials, and poor white migrants made up the elite society. The others were referred to as “free people of color”—the non-whites who were not slaves, and sometimes even owned plantations, but who were considered to be of a lower class than their white counterparts. Free people of color where not allowed to hold certain jobs or administrative positions, and they were forced to abide by a different set of societal rules. Over time, the free people of color became increasingly disgruntled, demanding to be treated as equals. Finding their demands ignored, they revolted, with little success, their forces not large enough to outnumber the white population. But all of that changed when, in 1791, the slaves themselves banded together to fight the wealthy elite, resulting in the largest slave revolt in history.

Led by Toussaint Louverture, an educated former slave, the slave revolution successfully overpowered the white armies, aided in part by help from the free people of color who fought beside them. By 1801, Louverture was in complete control. The revolt was so successful that he not only took over Saint-Domingue, but all of Hispaniola, and he demanded the abolishment of slavery across the entire island. Back in France, Napoleon Bonaparte caught wind of Louverture’s triumphs, and he ordered his brother-in-law, Captain Charles Leclerc, to attack Saint-Domingue and reestablish French rule, and slavery. Louverture was seized by Leclerc’s troops and deported to France, where he died of pneumonia in a French prison in 1803.

Taking over in Louverture’s absence was his lieutenant, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, also a former slave, who continued to lead the fight against slavery, eventually defeating the powerful French army and leading the country to its independence. On January 1, 1804, Dessalines declared Saint-Domingue a sovereign nation and established “Haiti” as its official name, a modification of the spelling of the original name Ayiti. Haiti became the first independent nation in Latin America. Today, the Haitian Revolution remains the only successful slave revolt in history.

Haiti’s newfound independence, however, was met with many challenges. Even after the abolition of slavery, a ruling elite remained. The free people of color were now considered part of the elite society, and the freed slaves remained peasants. The groups had differing opinions as to how the newly independent nation should compete within the global economy. The elites wanted the country to be a part of international trade, while the peasants wanted Haiti to produce its own goods and stay away from outside influence.

Even without the internal struggle, Haiti was already being disregarded in the global market. At the time, both Europe and the United States relied on slavery as a major economic stronghold, and without slave trade and slave labor in the country, Haiti was no longer of interest to governments there. The US government refused to officially recognize Haiti’s existence, even though the United States had recently been selling more goods to Saint-Domingue than any other Latin American country. At the time of Haiti’s independence, the US government placed an embargo on the nation and refused to officially acknowledge Haiti for more than fifty years—not until President Lincoln did so in 1862. Similarly, France refused to recognize Haiti as an independent nation until 1825, and then only under the condition that the Haitian government agree to offer compensation to French owners for the loss of plantations and the loss of slaves after the revolution. The French government demanded the Haitian government pay 150 million francs in reparations, equivalent to about twenty-one billion US dollars today. Haitian officials, desperate to be recognized so they could participate in the European market, agreed to pay back the debt to France, which, at the time, was one of the richest countries in the world. Haiti paid the debt to France for seventy-five years, until 1950.

*

 

For more than one hundred years after its independence, Haiti struggled as rival regimes and revolutionary armies forced leaders out of office continually. Political instability wreaked havoc on the country. As Haiti’s political situation continued to decline into the twentieth century, assassinations became increasingly common. In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson staged an internal coup in an attempt to restore order. The US occupation would last until 1934. During that time, US banks took over Haiti’s treasury, and the US Marines disbanded the Haitian army. Haitians met the occupation with resistance, and Haitian rebels fought the US army, leading to almost two decades of hostility within the country.

In the years following the US occupation, Haiti’s leadership consisted mostly of a small number of families until, in 1957, François Duvalier was “selected” as president. Before getting involved in politics, Duvalier had been a physician. His patients affectionately called him Papa Doc, a moniker that stuck with him throughout his life. He served as the minister of health and labor in Haiti until 1956. While running for president, Duvalier was backed by the support of the Haitian military, and his only political opponent had been forced into exile before the election, leaving him as the sole candidate in the running.

After elected, Duvalier instituted a new constitution and began his regime of terror. Wary of his control over the Haitian army, he created a militia called the Tonton Macoutes to enforce his power across the country. Named after the Haitian mythological bogeymen who kidnapped unruly children by sticking them into sacks in the night, the Macoutes grew in size to twice that of the army, operating as a sort of secret police. Under Duvalier’s direction, they terrorized Haiti. All civic organizations in the country were disbanded, perceived as a potential threat to Duvalier’s rule. The Macoutes attacked Haitians in broad daylight and abducted people they suspected were against Duvalier. It is estimated that during his fourteen-year presidency, nearly 30,000 Haitians were killed. Before his death in 1971, Duvalier, deeming himself “President for Life,” changed Haitian law to allow his 19-year-old son, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, to succeed him.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Haiti was in disarray. Baby Doc lived a lavish lifestyle as president while neglecting his role within the Haitian government. To make matters worse, the small tourist industry in Haiti was crippled when, in 1982, the US Centers for Disease Control released a report claiming the largest groups of AIDS victims was made up of homosexuals, heroin addicts, hemophiliacs, and Haitians. The label was unfair, and unwarranted, having been based solely on HIV/AIDS cases among Haitians who had migrated to the United States and not directly related to cases of Haitians actually living in Haiti. But the damage had already been done. After the report was published, charter flights discontinued service to Haiti. Cruise ships no longer docked in Port-a-Prince—the entire country became stigmatized by the virus.

 The summer of 1984 saw food riots. Thousands of Haitians fled the country, escaping to the United States, Canada, the Dominican Republic, and France, as they desperately tried to find a better life outside of Haiti. In 1986, Baby Doc was overthrown by a popular uprising as Haitians became increasingly fed up with the state of their collapsed nation. He and his family where exiled to France, taking with them almost eighty million dollars in Haitian government funds. Even though 1986 marked the fall of the nearly thirty years of Duvalier dictatorship, it was not the end of Duvalierism—the country was left under the rule of the military junta, who continued to carry out atrocities against the Haitian people.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a priest by the name of Jean-Betrand Aristide became the voice for the opposition to the Duvalier regime. Aristide was born in Port-Salut, Haiti, in 1953. As a priest, he worked intensely for the poor. He gained popularity quickly, becoming increasingly known for his dedication to the dispossessed. In January 1991, Aristide was elected president by a landslide, winning sixty-seven percent of the vote in Haiti’s first democratic election. But regardless of Aristide’s popularity, the Haitian military and many of the Haitian elite opposed the new leader’s attempt at reform within the government. Just seven months after his inauguration, in September 1991, Aristide’s regime was toppled by a military coup, and the president was exiled, first to Venezuela, and then the United States.

 

In the years after Aristide’s exile, the country was ruled by the Haitian army. The economy continued to worsen. In 1994, the Clinton administration intervened, and once again the United States occupied Haiti. In an attempt to restore constitutional rule, Aristide was returned to Haiti on October 15, 1994, after more than three years of political exile, and reinstated as president. In 1995, at the end of his term, Aristide handed over the reins of power to René Préval, his former prime minister. Préval became the first Haitian president to serve his five-year term in its entirety until the next free presidential election. In 2000, Aristide was elected as president again, winning more than ninety percent of the vote.

 

By the early 2000s, Haiti was severely lacking in resources. The public sector could not provide even the most basic services to its citizens, including safe drinking water. Public health was poor, and the public education system was failing. In 2004, Aristide fled Haiti for a second time, after he was blamed for the assassination of a Haitian gang leader. Violent rebellions against him erupted as rebels invaded the capital. Fearful for his life, Aristide left the country, this time taking refuge in South Africa. In 2006, Haitian voters elected René Préval as president for his second term. That same year, Port-au-Prince was deemed the kidnapping capital of the world.

In April 2008, a worldwide spike in food and fuel prices lead to an increase in riots in Haiti. As a result of advanced deforestation in the country and widespread storms that struck throughout the year, landslides and floods devastated communities on the island. By 2009, half of school-aged children in Haiti were not attending school. The January 2010 earthquake ravaged Haiti—hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives, and over 1.5 million were left homeless. By October, a severe cholera outbreak affected over 700,000 Haitians and killed an estimated 9,000. In 2011, Michel Martelly, a former musician and a Haitian businessman, was elected president. Having come into office in the midst of great devastation, Martelly pledged to speed up reconstruction, but years after the earthquake, hundreds of thousands of Haitians remained in temporary shelters.

Today, Haiti remains vulnerable to natural disasters, as its people struggle with poverty, illness, and lack of governmental support. Still trying to rebuild after the earthquake, Haiti has seen some progress, but it has been slow, and tedious. Despite these circumstances, many Haitian people passionately love their country, its leaders, and its people. Even with all the difficulties of trying to survive among great obstacles, Haitians remain hopeful for the future.

 

*

 

After returning home from their cruise, Dick and Barb tried to forget about Haiti, even though they knew they had been greatly impacted by what they had seen. They couldn’t imagine how anyone could begin to help in such a complicated place, so they put it out of their minds. It would be a few years before they came across the person who would make them think differently. Coincidentally, that person had been brought to Haiti for the first time the same way Dick and Barb had been—on a cruise ship. His name was Harry Hosey, and he would not only bring Dick back to Haiti for the second time, but he would pave the way for Dick and Barb’s involvement with the Haitian people for the rest of their lives.