Thursday, 27 May 2010

Au revoir Ayiti

After several months in Haiti on assigment for SOS Children's Villages, the time has come for Line Wolf Nielsen to say goodbye to a country still struggling to recover from the disaster that struck on 12 January 2010.

The time has come for me to leave Santo and the work as press officer with SOS Children's Villages' emergency programme here in Haiti. It's been 3 brutal and beautiful months, with many tales to tell - big and small.

Will I miss the American ready-to-eat military meals that have been a staple in our diet here? Not in the least little bit. Nor will I regret to return to more private living quarters with reliable availability of water, electricity and freshly ground coffee.

I have shared a room with four different people and said hello and goodbye to upwards of 50 colleagues or so, who have been lending their expertise to the groundwork here in Haiti. You get close when you live and work under such special conditions - a truly rewarding, exhausting experience.

In order to grasp my time here I recently read through some of the first emails that I sent home. Four days after my arrival mid-February this is what I shared:

"We had an emotional evening last night, when it became clear that the driver who had been involved in a serious accident was never going to walk again. All formed a circle with a candle in the middle, said prayers in different languages, and friends and colleagues spoke about him. In its own way very beautiful. I think the outpour of emotions also stems from the stress and overload that everyone faces here. If you are local you have most likely lost friends and family, if you're international you work non-stop in an emergency situation and do not get enough sleep or proper food."

 A week later I wrote "On Saturday I went to the centre of Port-au-Prince and saw the crumbled Presidential palace and the sprawling camps all around. It was quite strange to have to embrace the amount of destruction: the completely pancaked churches, hotels, banks, colleges - where no doubt dead people are still buried - and also take in the sense of calm, everyday life that seemed to have resumed. As much as is possible in tented camps, that is."

I will not forget the mixed emotions of children and SOS mothers that marked the day in March when we could re-unite the 33 children who had been taken by a group of American missionaries with their families. Saying goodbye after six weeks in Santo was hard on everyone involved.

Then there was a day-trip to the mass burial site, some pleasant Sundays chilling at the rocky beach and mornings spent eating breakfast under a shady tree branch. I also have mental snapshots of Sonson, the malnourished boy who began to smile after five weeks in the village, and the 12 year-old spirited girl who had lost both parents but nonetheless considered herself lucky to be alive.

It is still too early to share what will be truly lasting memories, but for sure I will have many!