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Hope rises from the rubble - Young Haitians want to work to develop ailing country

Published:Friday | January 22, 2010 | 12:00 AM



Daraine Luton, from Haiti

Imagine walking miles up the most rugged of hills in Haiti in search of food only to get there too late.

But the situation is far worse if your entire family went to bed hungry the night before and appeared set for a second such night without food.

It was the stark reality that faced Jean-Farnel Oastil after he arrived on the summit of Decayette, in Haiti's deep countryside, only to find that supplies had dried up.

Hundreds of Haitians had climbed the dusty hillside to collect food, diapers and bed linen being distributed by the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF). The food items were gifts from by the Jamaican people.

Getting to the distribution point for the JDF required skilful manoeuvring of the trucks along a narrow roadway on to which nearly all families had relocated their homes.

The birthmarks and battle scars of a wholly underdeveloped Third-World nation had their brands all over. Rickety houses, garbage-littered streets and worn clothes were the first signs of the battle. Then there were the stares of desperation on many faces.

Tear-jerking

The smiles that the distribution of just a pack of cookies brought to the faces of children were tear-jerking.

For nearly all of them, the one biscuit was not enough, and many outwitted the soldiers by joining the lines several times to collect the food.

Adults who got a can of meat, oats, biscuits and bed linen rotated babes so they could be placed in priority lines.

One elderly woman required 18 stitches on her leg to close a wound that was inflicted my a man who hit her with a stone and stole her blanket.

She went home injured and unhappy. And so, too, did one man who complained bitterly after he was given a tin of tuna. Although he was unable to speak a word of English, he waved his hands frantically, indicating that his family was large and that the food was not enough. He then walked down the hillside, cursing to himself as he left with the single item in hand.

But Jean-Farnel was in no mood to walk away cursing. He was hungry. He said his family was hungry too and that they were depending on him for food.

Luckily, the Jamaica Defence Force had kept a few items back. With the assistance of JDF personnel, I was able to secure some food for him.

Grateful



This woman and the baby on her arm are two of those lucky enough to arrive early enough to receive much-needed relief from the United Nations and Jamaica Defence Force soldiers in the town of Decayette, Haiti, yesterday.

"I thank you so much," Jean-Farnel repeated as I presented him with the food.

"I hope this situation will pass. We don't know the day the situation will pass, we just hope and stay in the eyes of God," the young man said.

Jean-Farnel described life since the earthquake as frustrating. He said all he had now was hope and had vowed not to let that little flame die.

"I hope the country will change. You can see that the situation in my country is poor and now the earthquake has destroyed the jobs and schools. All that is left is hope," he said.

"I just hope that the stronger countries can continue help us so we can continue to survive because it's by their grace," Jean-Farnel added.

That hope is not confined to Decayette.

An orphan at a home in Jesus Miracle chews on strips of paper. He had not tasted real food since the earthquake which killed 59 of the 128 children at the home.

Jean-Farnel wants to change that. He wants to see the end of the days when Haitians will depend on the benevolence of other people.

"I hope my father will find a job to help me continue my school. It is so bad in Haiti but I want to live in my country. I would want to go to strange countries but I want to help my country, I want to help my people. That is my responsibility," the 18-year-old said.

Burning desire

Lucson Doricil, a 24-year-old college graduate, also has that burning desire to transform his country.

"There are so many children who live on the streets. Many don't have health and can't go to school. I hope for a better Haiti," Doricil said.

"I want activities to restart in my country. I am available to work in the development of my country. I believe in development, I believe in something positive. I love my people. I want to work for my people," he added.

Jean-Farnel, too, has pledged to keep his undying love for his country burning.

But his immediate needs are clear. His family is hungry and the few items I was able to secure for him are like gold.

After saying no less than five "thank-yous", he tucked a box with the few items of food under his arm and headed home.

His slippers, however, were in no condition to make the trip down. The straps gave way in mid-stride but that did not make his journey back to fill the bellies of his loved ones any slower.



This youngster sits and eats on the side of the road. Eating in Haiti is not a simple thing and is fast becoming a luxury. - photos by Ian Allen/Photographer

Countries report dead and missing in Haiti

Antigua and Barbuda: two missing.

Argentina: one dead.

Austria: one dead.

Belgium: one dead, one missing.

Brazil: 20 dead and two missing.

Britain: one dead.

Canada: 13 dead, 357 unaccounted for.

Chile: one dead, one missing.

China: eight dead.

Colombia: three missing.

Costa Rica: two missing.

Dominican Republic: 24 dead, 24 missing.

El Salvador: two missing.

France: 22 dead, 11 missing.

Germany: one dead, two missing and feared dead, seven unaccounted for.

Italy: two dead, including a UN official, two missing and feared dead, two unaccounted for.

Jordan: three killed, 23 wounded, all from international peacekeeping force.

Kenya: one dead, two missing

Mexico: one dead, 58 missing out of 138 believed to have been living there.

Netherlands: seven dead, including three newly adopted children; three missing.

Peru: one dead.

Philippines: four dead, including one UN staffer and three peacekeepers; two missing.

Poland: four missing.

Spain: three dead, nine unaccounted for.

Tunisia: at least one dead (head of UN mission Hedi Annabi).

United States: 33 dead - one a US government employee; three government employees missing. Some 45,000 Americans are in the country.

Uruguay: one dead, two missing (including a three-year-old).

United Nations: 49 confirmed dead and more than 300 unaccounted for. Some personnel may also be included in national counts.

European Union delegation: three missing.