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Lighting a candle for Haiti

Haiti, January 14, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Devan Wardwell/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Many gathered outside Mercy Corps Global headquarters in Portland, Oregon on the evening of January 14 to show their support and solidarity with the survivors of the Haiti earthquake. Photo: Devan Wardwell/Mercy Corps

The crowd grew. Candles lit children's faces. A Haitian-American woman stood up and started to to talk about the earthquake. She lamented that she had not been able to contact her family and had no idea if any of them were alive. She choked up, and couldn’t continue as grief overwhelmed her.

That moment, at a candlelight vigil Mercy Corps sponsored earlier tonight outside our Portland headquarters, drove the weight of the disaster home for me. What had been building for the last two days as I worked to raise funds for our emergency response seemed to crash down all at once.

I had been so focused on my work that I had taken very little to time to actually stop and think about just how many families had lost loved ones and how many would not live through this ordeal. When I saw the woman up at the podium alone, crying, I felt her loss.

But then I saw people step forward to comfort her. She bit back her tears and continued her speech. I saw my colleague, who had been working for 14 hours without a break, dump all the cash he had into a collection bucket. And I remembered the incredible outpouring of support from Mercy Corps’ donors during the past few days.

I realized how infinitely compassionately people can be, and when it counts that people can endure the worst of disasters and still carry on to help those who have survived. I have hope that we can still save lives, and I am certain that with enough helping hands we can rebuild Haiti for the better.