Given that I believe we are defined not by our thoughts but by our actions, I am heartened to learn that there are millions of decent people responding to the disaster in Haiti: from doctors volunteering to treat and rescue survivors, to people world-wide donating money, food, and clothing, to the entertainment industry giving of its talent and time to man the phones in an all out effort to raise awareness and money, to the reporters and newscasters who are not sparing us from the details of this horrific catastrophe.
What happened in Haiti staggers the imagination! It challenges our faith! It demands our attention!
As the daughter of immigrant parents who suffered the ravages of war – an in-human/un-natural/ man-made catastrophe, as opposed to an unexpected, “natural” disaster such as an earthquake – and as someone who has authored a memoir about the traumas experienced by survivors, I feel obligated to address the needs of the people in Haiti. I am committed to address them and those of the children, in particular.
With the death toll anticipated to be close to 200,000 lives, the earthquake that struck this impoverished nation twelve days ago is the worst in Haiti’s modern history. And while it is impressive how many people are still being rescued, the real tragedy is whether or not it will ever be possible to rebuild this nation or restore its inhabitants to a life that even resembles normalcy.
With most buildings destroyed, homes demolished, food and water in short supply, and with little or no pain medicines for patients with trauma injuries and no anesthesia for patients who need surgery, the enormity of this disaster cannot even be measured, the toll it will take on survivors yet to be studied and understood.
At best we are starting to see emergency response teams get some of life’s necessities – water, food, and medicine – to the people. Yet, because Haiti and its hospitals had so little to begin with and now what little they had is gone, it’s hard to imagine any amount of help being enough. Yet, help is still what we must give in the hope of making some difference, saving some lives, improving the dire health and necessities of others.
As a guest at a talk given at a local Ethical Culture Society meeting this morning, I was privileged to hear Mary Herman, an associate leader from the Washington, D.C. community, speak about the Society’s basic beliefs and was moved to hear so much of what I hold to be true echoed in her message.
With elegance and intelligence she stated – often quoting form the Society’s founder, Felix Adler – what is sacred about being human. That sacredness, she quoted, is found in the worth and dignity of every person: the respect for the inter-relatedness of all people in ways which elicit the best in ourselves and thereby nurture the worth of each of us and all of us.
Assisting others as we act to help, she went on to say, is the way to make justice manifest.
Given the fragility of our earth and its people at this time, this is surely an opportunity for each of us to act!
Caroyln Miles, the chief Operating Officer of Save the Children, tells us that the “the situation is still dire and children remain the most vulnerable part of the population during emergencies of this magnitude.” With the help of their long-time partner, AmeriCare, she also assures us that their health team is now getting medical treatment to thousands of children and their families.
That has proven to be true by Anderson Cooper and some of the other brave newscasters who update us daily. Save the Children USA is a member of the International Save the Children Alliance that works to ensure the well-being and protection of children in more than 120 countries and AmeriCare is a non-profit global health and disaster relief organization that delivers medicines, medical supplies and aid to people in crisis around the world.
The pediatric hospital Espoire in Port-au-Prince has received a 20-foot-container truck full of water, food and hygiene supplies to help fight the shortages of basic necessities. Yet, at the same time, we hear from Charlie MacCormack, the president of the Westport, Connecticut based Save the Children, who just returned from Haiti. He has released a statement and many photos showing him with dozens of children all without a home and many without parents.
That is the true tragedy and a place where our actions can make a difference, if we are to save not only the bodies but the souls of those surviving children!
The few who are safe from harm are those who were in orphanages, survived the quake, and whose adoption papers were already being processed. Just yesterday we saw them being flown to the States with eager new parents waiting to greet them. Those parents, too, will benefit from professional guidance that will educate them as to how best to handle the obvious images that many of their children may carry in their heads as well as the less obvious wounds of being scooped up, with no preparation, and re-settled, carried away to a totally different country to families who often don’t even share the color of their skin.
Save the Children of New Zealand advises stopping all adoptions until a proper screening process has been put into place. Why? Because the fear and danger is a real one! Children may not only be taken from the streets but from their families for sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
UNICEF has also expressed concern over the number of Haitian children leaving the country since the earthquake. It states there is evidence that they have been and are continuing to be stolen.
While it’s beyond the comprehension of any healthy adult why children would be further abused after such a human disaster, the truth is that evil does exist, the dark side of human nature is alive and well, especially when it’s known that taking advantage of truly vulnerable situations will more easily go un-detected, especially with young children who can’t defend themselves.
I believe that we owe it to those children to protect them in whatever way possible.
In the best of circumstances, recovering from trauma is difficult enough with the help of trained professionals. In this circumstance, we must begin first by rescuing the children, keeping them safe, and offering the medical treating necessary to all who have survived but are injured or in need of surgery, and offering emotional treatment to all who have been separated from their families and loved ones.
Please join me in contributing whatever you are able to at this time to any of the legitimate agencies doing the hard work for us and thereby allowing each of us to feel more human, to be a part of the global community that makes a difference.
If you haven’t already done so, perhaps you will feel compelled to help the next time you drink an untainted glass of water, eat a good meal, take medication that’s necessary, and/or see a healthy child enjoying life as we want all children to be able to do so.
Whatever it takes to encourage you to open your hearts and give from your pocketbooks – any amount will make a difference.
In taking such action, we further define ourselves while helping others.
I send you all best wishes for a healthy, productive and peaceful week.