It has been five years since a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti. Five years, two weeks and two days to be exact. The catastrophe took at least 230,000 lives and injured another 300,000.
As is typical when a natural disaster strikes, the world rallied around Haiti, but after a while, as is also typical, the world move on. There were other disasters to focus on, but one Castleton student and her family didn’t moved on.
Anna Hartman, a senior, spent one week out of her break in Haiti with her father and sister volunteering with a building and medical crew. Her father has gone to Haiti for the past five years. This year, Hartman and her sister decided to join him.
“There’s still so much sadness, so much that hasn’t been fixed,” Hartman said.
They were there with a group of 28 other volunteers and by the end of the week the group had built 58 houses, tended to 2,000 patients and provided food for 650 families.
One day Hartman was helping out at the medical clinic when a small 8-year-old boy came in. This boy had an incurable flesh-eating disease and not much time to live.
“The disease was eating away at his body. He was so weak. He couldn’t move. Seeing him in that bed was heartbreaking,” Hartman recalled.
They were able to provide painkillers and financial support to the boy to make his final days more comfortable, but that was all they could do.
Hartman also told the story of one woman who lost both legs in the earthquake. Since then, she has taken to walking on her knees to get around. She wears kneepads, carries a stick for support, and walks miles a day carrying her two young children.
One of Hartman’s translators was a college student at the time of the earthquake, but he stopped attending afterward because nearly all his classmates were killed.
Heartbreak is commonplace in Haiti, but what struck Hartman even more was the overabundance of joy, gratitude and above all, faith.
“With the amount of devastation, the joy on peoples’ faces is so rewarding to be around. They’re happier than anyone I’ve ever known,” Hartman said.
“They’re just constantly saying that things will eventually get better for them,” she said. “They still are such strong believers. Even after five years of the devastation, they still keep their strong faith, and that’s really inspiring.”
Even though it may not be on the forefront of everyone’s minds or at the top of every news hour, the aid to Haiti has not stopped.
Hartman plans on returning to Haiti to continue her work, and encourages others to volunteer their time as well.
“It’s such an eye opener and you’ll have a much greater appreciation for life in America,” she said.