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Losing everything, then finding something

Haiti, January 11, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Mercy Corps Haiti  </span>
    Jaime Louis-Jeune (upper left) with some of his Mercy Corps colleagues, as well as a few young beneficiaries in St. Marc, Haiti. Photo: Mercy Corps Haiti

Last year was one of a kind. It changed the lives of many people, including mine.

I was living in Port-au-Prince then. On January 12, I lost everything I had in the apartment I had rented. On January 13, people started entering other people's houses to steal valuable things, whatever they could find: food, clothing or money.

The only safe place we could go was my aunt's house. She lived along Route de Frere in Port-au-Prince. To get there, we had to walk from Turgeau to Pétionville and then to Frere — a three- to four-hour walk up a mountain and then back down again — with my sister, two cousins and the owner of my ruined apartment building who is 79 years old.

It was horrible to hear people crying from downtown. But we got there safely and, the next day, we all went north out of Port-au-Prince to the city of St. Marc to start our lives all over and try to forget all these moments that still haunt us.

I've never participated on an organization like Mercy Corps. Once we got to St. Marc, I didn’t have anything to do except help with the family business. I heard of Mercy Corps at that time and their plan to help people in St. Marc who really needed help.

Even though I didn't have experience with an aid agency before, I sent my resume. I think that the fact that I really wanted to help people, which I wrote in my cover letter, was one of the main reasons why Mercy Corps chose me for the position of Monitoring and Evaluation Officer. I was really happy.

Since the first day of work, it has been exciting to see people participating in the Kenbe-La food assistance program — as well as have the chance to explain to them the real purpose of Mercy Corps and the way we are going to help them survive. At first people were hesitant to participate, because they had been let down before by other people trying to help them. In time, they started to see that Mercy Corps really meant what it said.

After many meetings and preparation, families began to receive mobile money services, which gives them $40 each month in cell phone credit to spend on food. They found it a little difficult to use at first, but it began to work very well in time. They are always happy to receive the money and use the service and, when they have issues, they see we were ready to help them anytime.

It has been fun to see these people smile and thank us each time they see us on the street. I think that it has done many good things thing for the beneficiaries in St. Marc. We would like to help everyone, but it's not always possible. But at least it is good to give some families a smile and help them survive with Kenbe-La.