As you know, Haiti has been devastated by an earthquake. Tens of thousands are dead or missing and efforts both large and small are being made to save the nation from utter disaster. For two of FADER's family, the catastrophe has been personally overwhelming. Our advertising assistant, Judnick Mayard, a first generation Haitian-American, and John Francis Peters, our photo coordinator, visited Mayard's family over the holidays and came back telling stories of a lifetime. Just a few days later, all of their memories are forever altered. Above is one of the photos Peters took during their trip, and after the jump, both try to put a human and personal face on what is to most of us a tragedy of a scope impossible to grasp. Please give whatever you can in whatever way you can, and on the slight chance that anyone is going to Haiti to help, Mayard's cousin is still among the missing. His name is Reynold Louis, he lives in the Delmas 18 neighborhood of Port-au-Prince with his wife Fifi, son Rey and daughter Reyikah. Here is a photo of Reynold and Reyikah, please retweet and spread the word.
Text HAITI to 90999, a $10 donation to Red Cross will be made on your behalf and added to your cell phone bill.
For direct donations, visit CNN.
At 18 months old, I boarded a plane with my mother to Port-au-Prince. For the next three years, I split my time between a shack in Haiti with my grandmother and an apartment in New York. In 1996, I turned ten while spending a summer in Saint Marc, my family’s hometown. The two months I spent living in a house that had no electricity or indoor plumbing seemed like the greatest vacation in the world. The culture shock never dawned on me. It was only when I came back to New York that I felt like an alien. But stepping foot back in Haiti three weeks ago, my mind was blown. The changes in the country from my time spent there as a young child were glaring. There were Internet cafes on every corner and cell phones in most people’s hands. I was shocked at how little I knew about the progress Haiti had made. Yet, as I walked around Port-au-Prince and drove from place to place, it became apparent that not enough had changed. In a country that has one of the most unique histories and cultures in the world, there were people who had been completely abandoned. While every day was amazing, full of the craziest situations and the most hospitable people, I had no idea that I was witnessing the end of something. The Port-au-Prince that I left behind on January 1st is gone. Places where I stood just weeks ago, where I laughed, drank beer and ate are destroyed. The streets I walked through and the buildings I saw are decimated. The Haiti that I have known my entire life is a thing of the past. Every picture I see on the news contains a house or a street or a building that I recognize. I am living a nightmare but I still have hope. That’s the thing with us Haitians: our cynicism still leaves a place for hope even when all seems lost. It’s because we never look at the world through rose-colored glasses. We see it exactly how it is, which makes it all the more satisfying when we survive it. They say Haitian soil is so red because of all the blood that has been shed for it. I say it's because Haiti itself is alive, a living breathing land that represents so much humanity.
So all I ask is that you give all you can. Haitians have given all they have for this tiny piece of land and any aid you can give, no matter how small, makes us stronger bit by bit. I watched my family give my friend John and I all they had to ensure we had a good visit and so I owe them everything I have. I owe it to them to ask your help. As we’ve said since the beginning: “L’union fait la force” (Unity creates strength.)
John Francis Peters:
On the morning of New Years Eve 2009, I woke up early and walked out towards a panoramic view of Port-au-Prince from the hills above the city. From that vantage point I watched as the warm early morning sunlight slowly filled a densely populated valley below, the faint hint of smoke hung in the air and the sky above the bay changed from cool tones to a creamy blue. For those few moments before I would descend one last time through the heart of the raging city, I reflected upon what had been ten of the most amazing days in my life.
I thought about all the wonderful moments I shared with my friend Judnick and her family, who did not just guide me around Haiti, translate, feed me and watch my back, but in the Haitian tradition, made me, a total foreigner, feel as one of their own. They exposed me to a land which in my eyes dances in every corner with magical moments. A land filled with beautiful souls who have struggled to survive under the most extreme conditions since Haiti’s beginning.
Last night, two weeks after that morning, I stood alone above a pile of photographs in my friend’s apartment, each a memory recorded during my journey to Haiti. I slowly sifted through the images and all that led to each being made flashed through my head. I thought about hopping into the back of a rickety pickup truck in the southern town of Les Cayes and driving for 45 minutes into lush farmland under a moonlit sky. I thought about the tough street kids we sat with near the presidential palace who argued with each other and hustled passersby, their smiles in between filled with the innocence of youth. I thought about the drumming we walked toward while visiting rice farmers north of St. Marc, their family and friends dancing and singing a Sunday afternoon away.
Visiting Haiti was initially a dream fulfilled, a life-shifting experience that helped me gain a broader perspective of our world. With this catastrophic earthquake devastating Haiti so soon after, the significance of that experience and the images I made while there has forever changed. At this moment I’m just too confused to understand how much it has.
Before I left for Haiti my friend Nick wrote me, “Have an amazing time, it’s the type of place that touches your heart." That it has.