by Wedley Charles, Intern at the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio
January 12, 2010 I was being lured to sleep by the monotone voice of my physical education professor at Saint Cloud High School in Florida. He was rambling about the dangers that exist in the world and I decided to doodle. I was lost in my own world until he said “Disasters happen Wedley, you’ll never know when it’ll be your last day.”
I felt like a prisoner in my own mind when I arrived home. I couldn’t escape the words my professor told me. As I was walking towards my father I overheard breaking news from CNN saying there was an earthquake the magnitude of 7.0. The earthquake hit the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince, and neighboring cities.
My father went into an immediate panic. You could hear him mashing the buttons into the body of his phone. He was trying to contact all of his family members in Haiti, but he couldn’t reach them all. I remember him telling me stories of him growing up in a village in Cap-Haitien. The people of the village raised the children together teaching them local traditions and customs. He told me it would be his dream to have me go to his village and see his family. Now that the earthquake hit, I could no longer see those dreams.
Days later we discovered that my father lost two cousins and his wife at the time lost three family members. The deaths occurred northeast of the capital; La Gonave, Gonaives, Cap-Haitien.
The American Red Cross has supported more than 4.5 million Haitians since the 2010 earthquake. They have also contributed $98 million to improve the vital health care in Haiti. This allows families to have better access to quality medical care and clean water. $48 million dollars have been spent on job training, cash grants, and livelihood programs for the devastated communities. The Red Cross has also started programs to help entrepreneurs improve their business and marketing skills and they’ve trained nearly 10,000 people in construction techniques for emergency-ready homes. They provided safer sheltering conditions for 132,000 Haitians and upgraded or repaired more than 15,000 homes enabling them to remain safe far into the future.
The fundraising efforts of the Red Cross contributed $488 million for work in Haiti. The American Red Cross worked in partnership with the Haitian Red Cross and local Haitian organizations to support and sustain a permanent culture of preparedness.
Gail McGovern, CEO of the American Red Cross said “I have seen firsthand the destruction and shock in the days right after the earthquake, where people were just trying to get through the day with minimal food, water and health care. I have seen the steady progress and the return of a spirit of resiliency as Haitians have rebuilt their lives and communities. The pace of progress on the road to recovery is never as fast as we would like, but everywhere you look, there is a marked difference in Haiti, and I’m very proud of all that we have accomplished.”