January 12 in Haiti

Haiti, January 18, 2011

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Last week I had the honor of being in Haiti on January 12, the one year anniversary of the earthquake that took so many lives and caused so much suffering. On that day in Port-au-Prince, I saw processions of Haitians in the streets. They wore white, the color of mourning in Haiti, to remember their loved ones lost in the earthquake. Song emanated from churches, sad, strong and hopeful. At dusk, I saw a group of children carrying candles, the flames burning steadily.

While I know that many recent news reports have focused on the pace and progress of the recovery efforts, and while I would be the first to say that we all wanted to do more for Haiti, for me the real story in Haiti is the courageous spirit of the Haitian people, which continues to move the country forward.

Wherever I went on my visit, whether upcountry in the Central Plateau or around Port-au-Prince, I met Haitians who continue to hope for a better future and to work toward it. I met families in the countryside who generously continue to host displaced earthquake survivors. I visited with community members working with Mercy Corps to help combat cholera. I spent time with Haitian Mercy Corps team members to discuss our programs — both what's working and what can be improved.

During this time of Presidential elections, I also shared a meal with young people who are determined to make a break from the past and politics that have characterized Haiti for so many years. I found that all of these Haitians believe that a brighter future is possible for Haiti. They are not naïve about the challenges, and nor should we be — yet still, there is much hope.

Today, the way forward to help Haiti recover from the earthquake is the same as it was a year ago. It's in partnership with the Haitian people and with the government of Haiti, and through programs that address the root causes of Haiti's poverty and instability. That hasn't changed — and that's how Mercy Corps will continue its work here.

The Haitian people aren't giving up, and nor should we, as we mark this anniversary. In this time of remembrance, we honor the Haitian people and renew our efforts to build a better future going forward.