Hope in Haiti

 “Helping, one family at a time, one person at a time.”   —Guy Lepage

Photo courtesy of Guy Lepage

Last summer my friend, Guy Lepage, went to Haiti as a volunteer with the Canadian Red Cross. His stories brought me a lesson in how to have hope in the midst of overwhelming devastation.

You might be familiar with Guy from his days as a reporter with CTV affiliates in Ottawa and Kitchener. He covered the news as an objective journalist; now he steps into the stories to help write happier endings.
He assists the Canadian Red Cross when there are people in need. Families who lose their homes to a fire, or communities recovering from tornadoes find comfort in his soothing professional presence. He spent time in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, and last summer his new calling took him to one of the most challenged countries on earth.

He travelled to parts of the country that few non-Haitians see, for Haiti is not a tourist destination. There he found a nature-made tropical paradise lost beneath layers of the devastating effects of human-made pollution, poverty and corruption.

And an earthquake.

Poor grade cement, mixed with salt water, disintegrated with the impact. Public buildings—schools and hospitals—built out of cement with little or no rebar crumbled.

Hospital building destroyed - Photo by Guy Lepage

While he was there, Guy watched proud and determined Haitians rebuilding. They used the same poor grade cement mixed with salt water, and they used little or no rebar. If an earthquake happens again, the results will be the same.

The country lacks infrastructure on almost every level. There are no landfills, so garbage builds up in “garbage banks” reminiscent of our Canadian snow banks.

Garbage "banks" in the Carrefour section of Port-au-Prince - Photo by Guy Lepage

Contaminated water. No sewage treatment. Homelessness. Political Instability. Cholera. Haiti swirls in a vortex of misfortune.

What to do? It feels like trying to move a mountain using only a teaspoon.

“You do what you can,” Guy says.

During his stay he worked on two projects that are now coming to fruition. A retaining wall beside a river bed will prevent flooding after future hurricanes.

Retaining wall - Photo by Guy Lepage

And this building owned by a school in Jacmel now houses five families. The Canadian Red Cross approved funding for tin, nails, hammers and ladders so that Red Cross volunteers could replace the roof.

Photo by Guy Lepage

Guy knows that, in some small way, the situation is better now that it was before he arrived. He couldn’t fix all the problems, but he dug his portion out of the mountain.

I guess we have to remember to ask the right question.

Don’t ask: How can we possibly move that mountain? Instead ask: Where should I start digging?



Canadian Red Cross mission: improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity in Canada and around the world.


About Arlene Somerton Smith

Writer, laughing thinker, miner of inspirational insights, sports fan, and community volunteer

Posted on January 11, 2011, in good faith, outreach and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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