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reed magazine logoMarch 2010

Adventures in the First Person

Letter from Haiti

By Leah Nevada Page ’07

I’m not sure how long it’s been since I last wrote, because I’m not sure how many days I’ve been here. It feels like it’s been one long day, but I can remember at least three sunrises. Three or four days ago, I drove down to Port-au-Prince with a truckload of volunteers, medicine, and food. We heard that there was a worldwide moment of silence for the earthquake victims at 4:45 that day (not sure if this is really true, but it made us feel like the world was with us, so don’t tell me if it’s not). Just as we were saying “The time is arriving, let’s pull over and turn off the truck,” we got a flat tire, so we had no choice but to pull over and look up at the sun setting over the bare mountains and feel a bit of despair during our moment of silence.

Since arriving in Port-au-Prince I’ve been sleeping in the backyard of a lovely guest house. Every night we walk our mattresses outside and set them up in a big sleepover circle. We try to minimize our time inside buildings because of the widespread structural damage and because of the high probability of aftershocks. The day before yesterday I was shaken awake by a big aftershock (magnitude 6.1) and this morning I woke to a preacher thanking God at the field hospital next door. Tomorrow I plan to sleep really late (at least until 7 a.m.).

Michael Rogers ’08 is currently with a team in Jacmel [a city on the south coast of Haiti] visiting hospitals to assess the medicine supply and bed space and posting what they find (through me with the Port-au-Prince internet connection) to relief websites and relevant NGOs. Sasha Kramer ’99 at SOIL [Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods] has funded Michael to purchase emergency food and water for communities in desperate need. He’s been working with his networks there to assess which communities have the most urgent need and responding directly. The report from Michael is that the town of Lavalee has dirt in their water because of a ruptured water pipe and that Jacmel has an urgent need for condoms because of the rapid increase in prostitution as the situation has gotten more desperate. Last night he drank his first cold Prestige [a Haitian beer] since we arrived.

Okay, I just got distracted while writing this. . . . There’s a group of doctors staying with us at the guest house. They started operating on a man on the dining-room table and I had to leave the room to get out of their way. Now I’m sitting outside at the picnic table and things are relatively calm, apart from an idling diesel truck and the patient’s family anxiously waiting for news from the dining room.

Since arriving in Port-au-Prince, I’ve been working with Sasha and a small group of volunteers who all know Haiti well. We’ve been riding moto taxis and our pickup truck into neighborhoods and speaking with people to discern how immediate the need is and, if necessary, paying $50 for a truck to deliver water. Sometimes we help people buy food.


Haitians collect water from a damaged water main in the aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake in downtown Port-au-Prince.

AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd

reed magazine logoMarch 2010