“We are neighbors:” Dominican women rush aid and compassion to Haiti quake survivors
▲ A survivor of the Jan. 12 earthquake in Leogane, Haiti (right), still suffers from a broken collarbone and receives an injection from Marisol Baez, a nurse from the Dominican Republic who works as a promoter for the Dominican-Haitian Women's Movement (MUDHA). Photo by Paul Jeffrey.
by Paul Jeffrey*
Thirty-six hours after a massive earthquake ravaged the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, a convoy of 15 vehicles left Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, for the journey overland into the midst of Haiti’s despair. Organized by United Methodist Women-supported Dominican-Haitian Women’s Movement (MUDHA), the caravan brought 88 people, 30 of them doctors or nurses, along with water, food, medical supplies and tents. The group started working in six different makeshift camps, providing medical care and other services to traumatized quake survivors, and sent a delegation bearing relief supplies to the isolated southern port city of Jacmel.
The Dominican volunteers also took over a church-run orphanage and school that had collapsed outside the city of Leogane. Three people had died, and the 78 orphans who survived were left with no one to care for them. The Dominicans set up tents and started cooking food while also providing the children – among them a girl who lost both legs in the orphanage collapse – with love and compassion. Residents of the area started coming to a clinic the Dominicans established beside the crumpled orphanage.
According to Marisol Baez, a MUDHA promoter among Haitian workers on Dominican sugar plantations, the volunteers have tried to help the children recover some sense of normalcy. “We wash their hair and do manicures of the girls’ nails, and engage all the children with games and other activities,” she said. “Then an aftershock will come and they’ll scream and instantly flash back to the terror they lived through. But we’re here to help them begin to overcome their fear.”
Ms. Baez said the group continues to raise support in the Dominican Republic and bring supplies and volunteers across the border into Haiti.
“What happened here could just as easily have happened next door in the Dominican Republic,” said Ms. Baez. We’re neighbors, and when your neighbor suffers, you run out in the street and help them. That’s what neighbors do. MUDHA has long pushed the importance of solidarity between neighbors, and this is our biggest opportunity to practice it. Haitians are our sisters and brothers. Haiti is the home of our ancestors. I’m proud at this moment of being Dominican, because my people have demonstrated to the world what it means to be in solidarity.”
▲ Rose Michel, a 10-year old survivor of the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti, lost both her legs when the orphanage she was living in collapsed. Here she gets attention from Maura Senfre, a volunteer from the Dominican-Haitian Women's Movement (MUDHA). Photo by Paul Jeffrey.
▲ Eline Medjune, 5, a girl in an orphanage in Leogane, Haiti, who survived the Jan. 12 earthquake, gets special attention from Elena Bargo, a Spanish woman who lives in New York and who is helping care for the children here as a volunteer with the Dominican-Haitian Women's Movement (MUDHA). Photo by Paul Jeffrey.
*The Rev. Paul Jeffrey is a United Methodist Missionary and Response magazine’s senior correspondent. Mr. Jeffrey was on assignment in Haiti following the devastating January earthquake with the ACT Alliance.