It started with a touch. While exploring a neighborhood, the pastor of a local church lead me into the yard of a very nice home. Rather, what was once a very nice home. The concrete home had crumbled during the quake. The outside walls fell first, then the second story partially collapses onto the first floor. I was in full journalist mode.
I asked the pastor if he thought it would be OK if I took a few pictures. I took some wide angle shots to capture the size of the home and the magnitude of the destruction. Then I walked towards the rubble pile to get some close-ups of the front steps. Just as I was looking at the lighting and the subject, I felt a gentle touch on my right elbow.I turned my head to the right just in time to see they eyes of a young man, about my heighth. “This is my house,” he told me in broken English. “I used to live here until the earthquake. “I am so sorry.” I lowered my camera as I now felt like an intruder. “I see that you are fine, was everyone else OK?” He took a few seconds to answer and I wasn't sure if he had run out of words in English or if he was struggling to find the right words.
Either way, I instantly shifted from journalist mode to pastor mode.As I turned 90 degrees to face him he began to speak again. “As I felt the house begin to shake I started to run outside. I made it to the steps when the house…” He put both hands out and motioned that the building collapsed. I got trapped but someone was able to pull me out.” Then a long, painful pause, “But my sister died.” My heart sank. We continued to talk. I couldn't figure out if his parents also died or if they had moved away to another Province… But the fact remained that this 18 year old boy was now all alone.”Where are you living?” it was a question I asked because I didn't know what else to say. “I don't have anywhere to go. So I try to sleep where I can, mostly in a field.” He said matter-of-factly.
An 18 year old boy, deep in morning, sleeping under the stars among the cries and chaos of a collapsed city. My mind raced with thoughts of what it must be like.
“Do you have bad dreams since the earthquake?” He told me that he barely slept. That he just laid on the ground hoping for sleep that never came. It seemed as though each moment of his day was consumed in reliving the horror. “Was it loud when the house fell down?” I asked him. “Yes, very loud. I cannot forget the sound of the walls falling.”There are thousands of Bertrand's in Haiti today. But the Holy Spirit was prompting me to find out what his needs are and see if there was anything I could do. We talked a little about food and shelter, but he didn't seem interested. So I closed our time by praying with him.
“Mr. Adam, there is one way that you can help me.” His eyes now full of fiery hope. “I don't have anything. I have no place to live, no food, no water. But that doesn't matter to me because I know God will take care of me. The one thing I need, when the school re-opens, is to go back to school. But I do not have money for the fees. My parents are gone.”
This floored me. It represented the hope we heard all over the city for the future of the Haitian people. Somehow they know that immediate relief aid is only part of the problem. This young man knew that to truly change his life he needed to lay a solid foundation of education.
I took his picture and told him I would see what I could do. What he didn't know is that I took that picture and broadcast it on Twitter and Facebook. Within minutes I had several people willing to pay the 3000 Haitian dollars (About $75 USD) for him to attend school for one-year.
It's easy to get lost in the numbers of this event. More than 200,000 people killed. 3,000,000 people displaced. More than 750,000 living in tent cities.
And yet each of those numbers has an individual story to tell. Each of them has their own pain and hopes to wrestle though. Each has their own grieving process.
In a way, while I cannot tell all of their stories, each story needs to be heard.
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