“Here I finally felt safe”

It’s a week before Joe Biden’s inauguration when we make a video call with Jean Sammuel. We have to call him this week because next week he isn’t available. That’s because then the inauguration will take place. “Are you going to celebrate then?” I ask. “No, I have to work. Riots are expected and all over the country policemen and security guards like me are being called to help. ” It is clear that Jean has his affairs in order and has a great sense of responsibility. But that has certainly not always been like this in his life…

“My mother died when I was three months old. My father was out of the picture and my grandmother was taking care of me. We lived in the southeast of Haiti, in Thiotte. I was about six years old when we moved to Cité Soleil, a slum in Port-au-Prince. We were terribly poor. I remember walking far to get food from the government food program. Then you had to queue for hours, and as a little guy I was often pushed aside. Food was also often fought over. That was a really scary time. ”

“My grandmother went to a church nearby. The pastor saw how we were struggling and introduced my grandmother to Johan Smoorenburg. That’s how I ended up at the children’s village of Heart for Haiti, as one of the first children of the project. There was food and I didn’t have to fight for it! We slept in a big building, where we were safe! It was a difference of night and day for me. We had a good time with the boys in my apartment, I am still in touch with many of them. ”

All the while, Jean thinks that he has no family except his grandmother. Until one of the boys from his apartment is visited by an aunt. “She asked where I was from, and it turned out that she was from my hometown. In fact, she recognized my story and thought she knew my father too! ” Contact is made and Jean gets the surprise of his life: “It turned out that I still had a whole family! My father was still alive, but I also had (half) brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles… it was an emotional reunion. That was all I always wanted. We still have a lot of contact, although the family is spread over different countries. ”

Jean is in his early 20s when he finds his family again. By then he was trained as a translator. “I translated many official documents, such as adoption papers. As a result, I also had a lot of contact with people in America, who invited me to visit them. I met my wife there. We got married and had three children, who are now 15, 11 and 8 years old. ” Jean is grateful how his life has taken a turn. He explains: “In Haiti you often have the feeling that you can hardly make a difference. But investing in a child is the best you can do, as my story shows. ”

Haiti: An Island Adrift

From Haiti we received a documentary from Johan Smoorenburg about the current situation in the country. Despite the fact that it is spoken in German, the video with English subtitles give a good picture of the current situation.

Clikc here to watch this documentary.

Danger to Haiti from three sides

In addition to the danger of Covid-19, there is another danger that threatens Haiti, which is hunger. This is already a very big problem in the country. From the possibilities we have as a foundation, we help as much as we can.

Johan Smoorenburg wrote: “The lack of food will cause a lot of unrest. This also puts us in danger in the children’s village because people know that we have food for our children and people. ”

First Covid-19, now the imminent food shortage and then the cyclone season has also started.

Haiti in danger from three sides. More than 3.67 million Haitians have also been in a food crisis due to recent protests and economic uncertainty. Now through Covid-19, this number will most likely rise to over 4.1 million people.

Many farmers in Haiti are faced with the choice of staying at home on the advice of the government or working their land and providing food. Sowing, harvesting, selling food on the market; it is hard work and often families and neighbors work together on the land.

Due to the coronavirus, there is now less seed available on the market, which means that less can be planted. If agricultural production is shut down even further, hunger will soon be a bigger and more deadly problem than Covid-19.

As a foundation, we started a food campaign to tackle hunger. With this we want to support the population of the capital Port-au-Prince.

“We are not prepared at all”

“The monster is coming!” and “No escape!” The local newspapers leave little room for a different interpretation of the current situation in Haiti. Corona also finds its way here and people are afraid. Will this be the biggest disaster of all time for Haiti?

When the first outbreaks of Covid-19 in Haiti were detected, the virus seemed to be moving slowly. This was also because the country had been “cut off” from the rest of the world for some time due to protests and negative travel advice. Unfortunately, it now seems to be going the other way. This is caused by returning Haitians from heavily troubled areas in the Dominican Republic. They worked there but many have been fired and return home carrying the virus.

Sick people who are stopped at the border must be quarantined. There is no suitable location for this. People run away or refuse to quarantine. Of the people who become
referred to hospitals many choose not to go. Doctors in the country suspect tens of thousands of people will become ill in the country. Many doctors try to prepare as well as possible for the upcoming patients, but there is a shortage of everything and the costs associated with the preparation are extremely high. Too often, Haitians die from diseases that are easy to treat. If people already die from diarrhea, how can one survive the coronavirus?

It is estimated that the country has only 40 respirators, of which perhaps 20 are operating. Many doctors do not know how to operate these machines at all. The Haitian government has still tried to import all necessary materials, however
it is feared that it will be too little and too late. Doctor after doctor admits, “We’re not prepared at all.” For many villages in Haiti, the cities and hospitals are virtually inaccessible. When corona hits their village, there is no escaping it.

Corona has also broken out in the country’s largest prison, located in the heart of Port-au-Prince. More than 3,500 prisoners currently reside here, while there is actually only room
is for 778 prisoners. The prison is overcrowded and hygiene leaves a lot to be desired.

Then the problem remains that the Haitians seem to have to be convinced of the seriousness of the situation. The shops and supermarkets where the Haitian elite comes, the measures are good
for each other. Disinfection points, compulsory wearing of face masks, keeping distance, etc. But in the markets – where the rest of the population has to get their food – these measures are not adhered to; this is also not feasible. About 60 percent of Haitians live below the poverty line. Choose to stay at home
is impossible for them. For them, staying at home simply means no food.

Haiti has many faces. On the one hand, there is the ignorance of the Haitians who do not believe that the corona virus really exists. Because the news comes from the government and confidence in the government is minimal. On the other hand, there are those who believe it and put the blame on the government. Protests against the government were already underway before the outbreak of Covid-19
day. This has now only gotten worse and worse with corona. The Haitians feel that they are all alone.