Thursday, 25 February 2010

"Why does the earth move?"

The children of the SOS Children's Village in Santo ran screaming from their houses last night, utterly terrified. The traumatic experience of the earthquake is still very fresh in the children's minds, and when the earth started moving again during yesterday's aftershock, they panicked. They spent the rest of the night in tents and didn't dare go back inside the houses until the next morning, when some of them went cautiously back inside. The fear of a second heavy quake is ever-present. I had gone to bed very late myself and would therefore have slept through the whole thing if it hadn't been for Jean, a Haitian volunteer who shook me awake and dragged me outside. This morning, a little boy with tears of rage running down his cheeks asked me why I thought the earth moved sometimes, if all it achieved was to scare people. When he saw that I couldn't give him an answer, he stomped his foot on the ground as hard as he could, as if saying "Don't you dare do that again, or else!"

Aside from the aftershock, something else occurred last night that deeply troubled me. One of the drivers working for SOS Children's Villages here in Haiti was shot, his condition is still critical. It must have happened close to the UN base. Luckner was getting on his pick-up truck with a bag of groceries when a man brandishing a gun started banging against his window. Luckner stepped on the accelerator and the man fired. With a bullet lodged in his back, Luckner just barely made it to the UN base before he ran the car into a lamp post. Today, the staff gathered and prayed for his life. Songs were sung in Spanish, French and Creole and all attending whispered their hopes for him into a candle. As the population here grows more desperate, the situation becomes more threatening.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

A boy's face

Today was a hard day. I got up at 6 a.m. as usual, woke my next-door neighbour Edgardo, the Head of Finance from Guatemala, and then we set out for the airport. On every roadside you see people who have built small shelters with plastic sheets. Often, they join up to form a little tent village. The traffic was incredibly heavy today, as ever, and the UN soldiers were trying in vain to bring order to chaos. So we were stuck, unable to move forward, and this is when we witnessed a terrible scene. Three men were standing guard in front of one of these tent villages, armed with sticks. A boy of about twelve came running up and tried to enter the tent village to get food and water. He was completely emaciated, and his clothes were all torn. When the boy refused to give up, the men started beating him, without any hesitation. They kept beating even though the boy was bleeding badly. The boy wouldn't give up, and kept trying to get into the tent village. Eventually, covered in blood, his strength ran out. He dragged himself to the next street corner, and when I got there to help him, he was gone. You see horrible things here every day, but what I saw today is by far the worst. How desperate can grown men be to beat a twelve-year-old boy half to death? I can't get the boy's face out of my head. And although we now provide food and water to 14,000 children daily, it's just difficult to accept that we can't help all of them.