Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Haiti Earthquake Survivor Stories

Survivor Stories
 written by Laura
From: The Salvation Army Blog : http://blog.salvationarmyeds.org/?p=964

Major Kelly Pontsler, an American Salvation Army officer serving as the Army’s Public Information Officer in Haiti, shares stories of people linked to The Salvation Army’s emergency relief effort in the nation since the devastating January earthquake:

Major Ron Lee welcomes Jean Robert Bernadin to The Salvation Army's
logistics team.


WHAT do you do when life as you know it is brought crashing down? The testimony of Jean Robert Bernadin is that you have to keep going. The earthquake that ripped through Port-au-Prince on 12 January took Jean Robert’s wife, mother and livelihood but he refused to give up and now he is helping The Salvation Army to provide relief aid to many thousands of fellow-Haitians.

Jean Robert was employed by the United Nations but when the UN facilities in Port-au-Prince were destroyed, his job went with them. Not a man to sit on his hands, Jean Robert headed to the airport compound in Port-au-Prince to look for work. It was there that he met the Salvation Army logistics team. Still wearing his UN identification, he was taken on for a day’s work, moving goods. His focus and work ethic were evident from the start and one day quickly became two, then three.

Jean Robert describes the change in his circumstances without self-pity or anger. Work, he says, is therapeutic. He doesn’t intend to forget the past, he misses his wife and mother immensely, but his focus is on the future. Now the sole provider for two teenagers and an infant, he knows he has a job to do – to raise those children and raise them well. And he will do whatever it takes.

Jean Robert has now joined The Salvation Army’s emergency response team as an assistant for logistics. His good nature, skills and leadership ability have made him indispensable on the ground. And the relief work of The Salvation Army is better because of Jean Robert.

Major Kelly Pontsler with 'Dora' and 'Boaz.'


The resilience of children is remarkable. Judging from the smiles on the faces of two small girls currently living in the Salvation Army compound in the Delmas 2 area of Port-au-Prince, life is fine – and yet, taking a quick glance at their surroundings, it’s hard to imagine how they can be so cheerful.

Last Saturday was distribution day. A joint effort between The Salvation Army and World Concern delivered hygiene kits and water jugs to the 3,200 registered families living in the camp adjacent to the Army’s property. As there was an abundance of helping hands available to distribute the goods, I stepped back to observe the bigger scene.

The day was warm and the Salvation Army compound was dusty, as usual. Human waste and other debris continues to pile higher every day in the trench that cuts through The Salvation Army’s property. The stench is overwhelming. The courtyard of the former divisional headquarters compound has become a tent city, housing people forced from their homes by the earthquake. Sanitation is modest – a bucket of water is still a luxury.

In the midst of this live two girls aged six and three years. Last Saturday they wore stickers with cartoon characters on their clothes as they ran and danced and laughed in the bright sun. One had a Dora the Explorer sticker and the other wore a Bratz sticker. We couldn’t get them to tell us their names so we used their stickers as inspiration and called them Dora and Boaz, which seem to please them! Oblivious to the smell, unconcerned by the distribution across the way, these girls were full of life. Conversing interchangeably in French and Creole, they had much to say in between bursts of laughter.

I played with ‘Dora’ and ‘Boaz’, took photos and enjoyed some girl talk as their families looked on with broad grins of approval. Who knew that such a huge pocket of joy would be found inside a dusty compound that day, bundled up in the form of two little girls?

What the future holds for these children remains to be seen. But for one brief moment on a Saturday afternoon they had no cares in the world. Nor did I.

- Major Kelly Pontsler

Public information Officer

Haiti Incident Command Team

For more information on what The Salvation Army is doing in Haiti, visit our Haiti website at www.salvationarmyhaiti.org.

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