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01869 338890

Haiti Earthquake - a gap year volunteers week

Iman (Immy) Amrani Reports on the Week Following the Earthquake


It's Friday and I'm sitting in my earthquake room again. I feel like I should write down what kind of impact the earthquake has had on the community alter the initial shock and once the pictures managed to make their ways into the noticias.

Thursday morning I was in the office at school and one of the third grade assistants, a strong well-rounded woman from the village entered the room announcing that there was going to be another earthquake. "Really?" I asked confused. I was sure there weren't any earthquakes forecast, that's surely part of the problem. But she cleared things up for me by letting me know that God said so. Since then I have heard so much about Matthew 24:7 "Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes in all parts." So now quite a high percentage of the village is convinced that the end is nigh and Jesus is coming and the churches have been packed even more than usual with pastors talking of prophesies that are coming true and everyone pointing fingers at the "malos" in society.

I was sitting with Nesley on the concrete ledge outside one of the houses in the village the other day and she was telling me how God was making his presence felt because he was so furiA field worker in the Dominican Republicous about the witchcraft and voodoo practices that take place in Haiti. In fairness Haiti has had more than its fair share of bad luck and the second and third generation settlers have become Christians since fleeing the poverty of Haiti. They came in search for back breaking work in the sugarcane fields and can sometimes be very direct with their reasoning as to why they came. They have put the nation against nation reference down to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as Palestine/Israel and the struggles in Africa and the human rights in China. I know better than to pose any type of argument because in a weird way they have only a roundabout grasp of what is going on in the world and their interpretation of the Bible is quite watertight (even though at times I have to bite my tongue when something painfully ignorant is said). I said "in a weird way" because as it is I remain unconvinced that the world is going to end just yet and even if it is, I would rather spend the remaining time enjoying myself, reading, running, talking and just being rather than getting myself more and more depressed about the sickness and pain that is headed my way. At least then if God exists he will hopefully see I'm having a good time and spare me instead of thinking that he needs to end my suffering or something.

Baptism - the church plays an important role in the DRStill it is scary how the village mentality revolves around the words of the Bible and I can't decide whether the guidance sought from Christianity is having a positive or a negative impact. On the one hand there is a lot of panic and what I would call time wasting but then there are people like Nes's mum who perceive it to be their duty to go into the hospitals and help with the casualties who are making their way across the border.

I realise that I have digressed somewhat from the impacts I was trying to record about the earthquake aftermath but I've been bursting to get all of this messy thoughtful stuff out of my mind. So now I'll get back to the point. Where I live in the DR is right near the Haitian border and therefore is practically synonymous with drugs smuggling, immigrant smuggling and generally has a bit of a badboy reputation. That's not to say that that reputation is entirely fair. I have had a lot more hassle in the Capital but the number of Haitian field workers who have settled here coupled with the general racial tension means that a lot of bad things get said about the bateys. However, the people I live and work with here are pretty amazing people, especially the staff in the school. They're always pitching together to do things like visit sick members of staff or doing collection buckets for people who have be struck by tough times and there's a lot of banter in the office and at breaktimes. Everyone is talking about what they can do to help and there was talk of a group of people going over to Haiti for the day to help with the aid distribution but it's probably not such a good idea right now what with the off the scale AIDs rate, the insane violence, the sickness, the lack of any police or medical support and I'm pretty sure I'm not covered to do stuff like that on my medical insurance. I feel a bit useless just sitting and watching knowing that literally just a couple of hours away there are still people crushed under fallen buildings and people dead dying and lost. All I can really do at this moment in time is offer clothes and stuff and raise awareness at home - if you can donate anyhing it would make such a difference - Haiti was in an awful way before the earthquake and the destruction is unimaginable now.

In our village there is no clean drinking water. Water trucks pass through playing music a bit like ice cream lorries at home. The villagers then go out with containers and pay for the water they need. That's standard in the Dominican Republic, not Haiti. I haven't drunk At least there is plenty of fruitwater from a tap in nearly six months. But that's nothing. The Haitians who live here came to escape the poverty of Haiti but the lifestyle here is still a world away from comfort. I used to think I couldn't imagine the poverty that lay across the border having heard the stories from the people who had visited. But now it's beyond anything I could possibly comprehend. Yosi and Azul, two of my friends in the village, have been going to the hospital every day with Connie (the Copa director) and the medical team to help translate for the truckloads of Haitians that have fled and reached Barahona looking for medical aid. Yosi told me about a 13 year old girl who has been severely scarred over her face and body who arrived unconscious after someone rescued her from the rubble. Her arm was so badly crushed that they had to amputate it so when she woke up she found herself in a completely different country, not knowing where her mother or family were in a hospital surrounded by people who only spoke Spanish, missing her arm. There was another guy who was paralysed from the waist down who also didn't speak Spanish amongst. Other horror stories abound and the victims are still flocking in.

So far most of the people I have spoken to here don't have any idea how their family membeBoy with gun in the Dominican Republicrs are doing. People in the village are going to Barahona and wandering around the wards just to see if they can find people they know that have been rescued. It's really bizarre experiencing everything from the village because it's like Chinese Whispers, everyone has something to say about what's going on, the death toll and so forth. But the fact that I'm working during the day, have no internet whatsoever in the village and the temperamental electricity supply means that I rely mostly on hearsay. Although from the sounds of it pretty much all the numbers have been accurate. More helicopters and planes are flying overhead every day as aid manages to wiggle its way through.

I wonder what's going to happen over the next few weeks and how many Haitians are going to be coming into Barahona and how the Dominicans will feel about it once the initial crisis label begins to rub off. No doubt I'll have Immy finds time to relaxsomething to say about it in a few weeks time but that's enough from me for now.

Iman Amrani is on a one year volunteer placement in the Dominican Republic arranged with Project Trust. This post was written around 20th January 2010, about ten days after the quake struck Haiti.

Iman's original account of the night of the earthquake is also worth a read.