Update from Jayne Fleming, Humanitarian Project Project, Lawyers’ Earthquake Response Network (LERN)
(This is from last night, but I was too tired to finish it).
Some of what I feel tonight is anger. I don’t understand why the world is not doing more. I have interviewed at least 75 people. Not one has received food aid. Not one has shelter. Not one is physically secure. I have seen at least 25 rape cases in 4 days and my team mates have seen an equal number. We have seen dozens of widows and orphans who are not eating more than one meal a day. Why has the world abandoned Haiti??
Two cases really broke my heart today. One was an 18 year old girl. She lost her entire family in the earthquake. She has no one. She has been wandering the streets in a trance for three months. Last night an old man found her crying and urged her to go home with him. He said his wife could care for her. They arrived at the house and the man showed her to a bed and urged her to rest. He said his wife would be home soon. She fell asleep. Three hours later, the man returned with three other men and they all raped her. She escaped. By some miracle, someone found her and that person knows the community leaders we are working with here. They brought her to us.
I interviewed her. She said she does not know where the house she was taken to is. There is no police or judicial system to even begin a prosecution process. She said she had no idea where she was going to sleep that night.
I told her to stay with us and kept her in my line of vision the entire day. By nightfall, I had lined up a safe shelter for her with a family we know. Today we are lining up medical care for her and three other teen victims.
The other case that truly moved me was for a 28 year old mother who is gravely ill (the doctors suspect she has metastatic cancer). She lost her husband and six year old daughter in the earthquake, and she is struggling to provide for her surviving five year old. She is incredibly weak, yet she traveled two hours to see us today (I met her yesterday). I feel very protective of her. This morning I learned that she loves to sing. I told her I would love to hear her sing a song. We ended our interview and I promised to follow up on medical care tomorrow and said goodbye. Six hours later an interpreter came and told me she was still outside waiting for me. I asked why, surprised. They said she was waiting to sing for me. I went to her at once. She was so weak she could barely walk. I put her in an office and got her some food and water. I then got our interpreter and Josue (our video guy) and invited her to sing. She sang the sweetest, most angelic rendition of “Jesus Loves Me” I have ever heard. I was moved beyond words and to tears.
The most profound lesson I have learned here is the strength of the human spirit. We have seen unimaginable tragedy, spanning decades and generations. Yet the courage and faith on the part of the Haitians I have seen is unbreakable.
It is also amazing to witness the patience and elegance of everyone. We expected 45 people today. We had at least 60 and many cases involved multiple family members. People waited for up to 4 hours to see us. Yet they never complained. They were gracious and gentle. They did not ask for anything (we provided food and water). They were completely dignified. We all noted that everyone had come to meet us in their Sunday best – the women in beautiful dresses, the men in slacks and dress shirts – which must have required a significant effort given the devastation all around us.
We set up a CD player today and I played Diego’s music for them (the Haitian musician from our candlelight dinner). They enjoyed this and many were swaying to the music and smiling, transported if just for a moment. Most of all, I think they felt safe, cared for, listened to.
Having seen 150 families, we have learned a lot and taken on a big responsibility. We will not file parole applications for 150 people, but we will provide everyone we met some kind of help, if only a tent and tarp for the rains.