(Larry visits Haiti in 2006/2007)
I was told this morning (3/26/15) that a small earthquake happened in the Crystal Lake IL footprint. My good friend Sue Scorzio said she actually felt it. It reminded me of when Larry, my husband, woke up at 4:30 AM in 2010 to a rumble which he thought was caused by a large branch hitting our Fox River Grove home. Listening to the news, we soon realized it was actually a mild earthquake in the Sycamore area that caused the rumble. We were still reeling from the earthquake footage we were seeing on TV of Haiti. We worried about the people we knew there and the huge task it would be to rebuild this already impoverished city. What was especially vivid was the footage of the Squatter’s Ravine, the place in Port a Prince where the poorest of the poor lived pancaked one hut upon another. “Peering down a very steep ravine, I could see 400/500 huts with a mass of humanity living in them. The roof of one was the partial floor of another, recalled Larry. One little shake and everything would be at the bottom of the ravine collapsing like a deck of cards.” The structures were made with cement cider block but the average person could afford only a little cement. Larry remembers on his 2007 trip that he was able to crack a block with the palm of his hand—-no wonder the Haiti Earthquake of 2010 was so devastating. The people living in the ravine were entombed as the earth swallowed them up. But from here on, I’ll let Larry relate his story.
I had recently retired from teaching Industrial Arts at Dundee Crown High School and it had always been my desire to find more avenues to use my gifts, talents and skills. So when Bright Hope International asked me to help in Haiti, I was excited about the opportunity. Could I make a difference in what to me seemed a hopeless situation?
I flew with several others from Miami to Port a Prince where we could see UN soldiers and police all over the place. We waited for the safe house driver to pick us up to stay for the night. The road took us up and down huge crevices somewhat like driving through a quarry with a four wheel vehicle. I looked to the right and saw a huge concrete slab that had been the floor of a building at one time and people were crawling under the slab to capture water coming from a spring below the slab. Iron Bars fortified the city buildings. Garbage was everywhere—electricity was sparse. Everything we took for granted was rare for them. After spending the night in the fortified safe house, we flew 80 miles inland to the town of Pignon. Today the town has doubled in size with refugees from Port a Prince.
One of the first things we did in the town of Pignon was to help deliver Hope Packs (small gift boxes) to the children. As a former teacher, I was deeply moved because all I saw were children with pencils and spiral notebooks. In Haiti, there were no textbooks, and the only tool the teacher had was a worn out blackboard and a piece of chalk. The children laughed with delight at receiving their Hope Packs, which contained school supplies, small toys, a T-shirt and even a Bible. Later, Cary-Grove Rotary club sent a shipment of Creole/English picture dictionaries which became a treasured teaching tool.
As I toured the village, I met a man who was doing carpentry work and I handed him a donated hand tool. Delighted with the gift, he invited me into his tiny Haitian home which was smaller than my garage to see some of his handcrafted work and meet his family. No welfare system exists in Haiti and the people are looking for hope and opportunities to improve their lives. With the earthquake, this will be even more difficult.
Our team stayed with Pastor Jephthe Lucien, Bright Hope’s Haiti partner. Pastor Jephthe is well respected in his church and among the villagers. His great sense of humor makes him popular with everyone he meets. He gave me the job of building school desks with the Haitian men. We communicated through pantomiming and humor. “Laughter like music is a universal language.”
On the last day I was there, Pastor Jephthe asked me if I would consider working with him to help build a trade school. I returned again the following spring with a team of men and we built a school which now serves as housing for displaced earthquake victims. The picture above is of a little girl in the process of making cement by breaking up rocks I now have a vision that a team can make a difference in what I had at first thought was a hopeless situation.
After the earthquake of 2010, much attention was centered on Haiti. I was proud of Americans who helped in so many ways. Yes, one person multiplied can make a difference in this world.
By: Sue and Larry Schuerr