I had known this day would come. My husband, a pre-med student, had been planning a month-long trip to northern Uganda for a social medicine course, and January 12 was his departure date. I thought that would leave me spending the month at baby showers, coffee dates with friends, and with time to catch up on old movies that he never likes to watch.
What I didn't know was that a 7.0-magnitude earthquake was about to crush Haiti and send me packing in the middle of the night to catch a January 13 flight to Port-au-Prince. I waved goodbye to my husband as I headed to the airport, while he packed his bags to catch his flight to Uganda that afternoon.
For three weeks, I worked side-by-side with Haitians and Americans who had come to help with relief efforts. As a disaster communications officer with World Vision, my task was to assist journalists who had flown in from around the world, helping them tell the stories of Haiti's survival. A previous deployment to Thailand during the Myanmar cyclone and work with World Vision in Ghana and Haiti in 2009 had prepared me for long days, sleepless nights, and the challenge of working in close quarters with colleagues for long stretches with little rest. Precious sleep was usually on a cot in a sleeping bag; other colleagues were on the floor or in tents on the lawn.
But what we were living with—or without—paled in comparison to the needs of Haitians we worked with every day. Nearly all were grieving the loss of friends and loved ones and struggling to find food and water for their families. They were fearful of a future quake and of a future unknown in a country fraught with political corruption and abject poverty.
I remember one young man, Patrick, whom I met soon after arriving ...1
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