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More to Haiti than an earthquake

Haiti, September 22, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Lisa Hoashi/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Photo: Lisa Hoashi/Mercy Corps

Today, I really just wanted to show you these images from the Central Plateau. This hilltop was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I felt so fortunate to be in this land.

It was not just the sight, of storm clouds darkening over the plateau, deepening the greens of its peaks and gulleys, of streams of rain from the sky steadily approaching. It was the sound of this community singing as they worked. The two men in the center had pickaxes that they twirled over their shoulder after every stroke. The men with the shovels behind called out a phrase of song, warbled and guttural. The women on the right sang the response. The man in the middle kept time, hitting a rock on the back of a shovel, a metallic staccato.

This region received thousands of people who fled Port-au-Prince after the earthquake. These men and women pictured have received family members and friends and even strangers into their homes. To help them support their expanded households, Mercy Corps is giving them temporary jobs on projects that benefit their whole community. This road will help the people of Bohoc get more easily to neighboring communities, and to get their agricultural crops, such corn, manioc, millet, and sweet potatoes, to market. Our long-term goal in this area is to help create sustainable jobs, particularly through agriculture.

Many foreigners like me are in Haiti because of the earthquake. We're here to help. We've been sent to help. We won't lose sight of that purpose.

But in my time here, I've also learned the importance of simultaneously holding up a second lens to Haiti, which is an appreciation for the richness of the land and the culture and the people. Here, it's in these images.

Tragedy brought Haiti to the world's attention, and still, many people live in tragic circumstances here that must be improved. But, it doesn't seem right to define Haiti only by tragedy.

On my last trip here, I was chatting with a Haitian woman who works for Fonkoze, Haiti's largest microfinance institution, and a Mercy Corps partner. "I really like it here," I told her.

"Really," she said, "you should have seen it before the earthquake." It could have been a discouraging thought, to measure then how much had been lost, but instead she smiled, and I felt her love for her country.

Keeping sight of this love, I believe, will carry Haiti through.