Earthquake in Haiti: The Mental TollPosted: Updated:
See Part I and Part II of Henry Graff's travels to Haiti over the anniversary of the earthquake that killed over 230,000. In Part III Graff examines how the psychological toll of the disaster continues to plague the island nation:
Haitians and Americans have many similarities: both nations are facing major issues right now and they are issues that have a common theme to them. Jobs, mental health, education are all issues reported as problems concerning central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley but 1,400 miles away, Haitians are dealing with similar concerns.
The clanking of hammers and the sound of drills are welcomed noise as Haiti is ever so slowly rebuilt.
"The real work in alleviating the massive amount of suffering is in doing reconstruction with infrastructure," said Building Goodness Foundation Executive Director Kelly Eplee.
But reconstructing things is different than building people back up again.
"You don't think about their mind, their mental problems," stated Haitian Cleeford Dalce. "It's a big, big problem. You need to talk to people to let them understand."
Many families are still living in tents, not because their house is unsafe, but because they are too traumatized to go back inside. With rebuilding underway at the earthquake's epicenter in Leogane, Haitians are now looking for jobs but they are hard to come by. It is simple math: hundreds of thousands of Haitians looking for a very few number of job opportunities.
"It's not good," said Jean Louisnet, from Leogane. "It's very difficult when you can't do nothing. You can't find a job in Haiti even though you are a bright Haitian."
Like many, Louisnet has not had a steady job since the earthquake and trying to support his two children is a daunting task. Felix Paul Micheul is one of the few that has found permanent work, making wooden school desks.
"The jobs are not easy, but I have a chance," he said. "Many, many people need a job that they can't find. It's not easy."
Hundreds of schools were destroyed in the quake as well, but the rebuilding of the education infrastructure is underway. A new school is up and running in L'acul and in Leogane, Haitians are reconstructing a school that came tumbling down.
"We're talking basic literacy and basic numeracy so that people have an easier time of getting around during the day, of setting up businesses for themselves, managing their lives," explained Stacey Miller-Nirberg of Tevel b'Tzedek IsraAID, a humanitarian group doing work in Haiti.
The road to recovery will be a long one for the Haitian people; some say it will take a decade or longer to bring about change.
"This is a real opportunity for Haiti to make real, significant progress," stated Haiti Fund Executive Director John Winings.
One of the organizations continuing to provide aid to Haiti is the Charlottesville-based Building Goodness Foundation, they are always looking for donations and volunteers.