Caitlin Curtis in DeRac, Haiti with her sponsored child, seven-year-old Djanesca. The dress Djanesca is wearing was given to her by Caitlin. Photo courtesy of Kristen Curtis

Post-earthquake Haiti makes one forget their troubles in Canada

By  Kristen Curtis, The Catholic Register
  • January 9, 2016

Jan. 12 marks the sixth anniversary of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010. The anniversary always takes me back to time spent in Haiti two years after the earthquake. It was a life- changing experience.

I travelled to northern Haiti in 2012. The island nation was barely on its road to recovery. A university had been built as a gift from neighbouring Dominican Republic and solar street lights had been installed along some parts of the main road leading to the town of Terrier Rouge. A new garment factory had been opened providing a lucky few with much- needed employment.

These were small steps but important because they reminded Haitians that the world had not forgotten about them, as so many tended to believe.

My relationship with Haiti actually began at Christmas in 2009. I received money from relatives and was determined to put it to good use. After researching various charitable organizations, I came across His Hands for Haiti, a U.S.-based Christian not-for-profit organization that promotes itself as God’s hands and feet for His children in Haiti. As a Catholic, that resonated with me. I purchased a goat for a Haitian child.

The next summer, with money saved from a summer job, I decided to sponsor a child in Haiti. It was just a few months after the earthquake. I scanned online photographs of eligible children and saw Dionise. She was seven years old, with mocha skin, curious eyes and a large smile full of straight, white teeth. She wore simple hoop earrings, a pink school uniform dress and had thick black hair tied in two braided pigtail buns with red ribbons.

When I sponsored Dionise I made a commitment to her and a promise to myself to visit her some day. That day came in 2012 when I joined a team from His Hands for Haiti to meet Dionise and explore her country.

The trip was emotional. I cried as we drove through the slums of Cap-Haïtien, feeling guilty for ever complaining about my life in Canada and for having so many material goods while so many people lacked the bare essentials.

A baby was brought to see our team leader. The child was a year old but was the size of a two-month old. It was too weak to cry or squirm and its face was a grey colour and its eyes were hollow. Months later I learned the baby had survived after being treated at a not-for-profit medical facility staffed by neonatal experts.

But I met many Haitians who were mourning deceased loved ones. Babies, children and adults often die from preventable diseases and it’s common for women to die during childbirth. In villages I visited, the local water supply was often contaminated. In rural Haiti, there is no 911 emergency number, no walk-in clinics or near-by hospitals. When Haitians need something, they turn to God. They praise God through song and dance while they sweep, hum to Him as they comfort their babies, and always attend Mass regardless of how tired or hungry they feel.

The Haitians I met accepted life, death and sickness as part of God’s plan for them. They were thankful for small blessings and did not dwell on negatives.

While there, I prayed more than I ever had. I thanked God for the joy I experienced when I met Dionise, and when I laughed along with local children at my unco- ordinated dancing. I thanked God for keeping my team safe during our trip — especially during Hurricane Sandy — and appreciated small privileges like delicious local fruit.

The air in Haiti smells of charcoal cooking fires, manure, unwashed bodies and the garbage that burns along the roadside. I am transported back to Haiti whenever I smell a charcoal barbeque, and then I think of Dionise. She is no longer in the sponsorship program. Her guardians, an aunt and grandmother, died so she is back with her father, who’d gone to southern Haiti to find work.

In 2013, I sponsored Phademarlie, whom I’d met in 2012. A year later my sister Caitlin was in Haiti with His Hands. One day she called to ask if I would sponsor a little girl named Chrisfaylove. I agreed. So I currently sponsor two girls and my sister sponsors three. She plans to visit again in 2016.

His Hands for Haiti has hundreds of children who need help. Six years after the earthquake that killed more than 230,000 people and left thousands orphaned, the impoverished country still suffers. Visit

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