[Continued from “Yes, It Was As Bad As They All Said It Was”]
It was February 2010. After a week in-country walking through the muck, mire and death from the earthquake, things started to look up. Just simply observing the number of people out and cars on the roads told me that things were starting to move again, that life was stirring and coming back in any way it could. It wasn’t much, but it was something. Even the line at the Canadian Embassy was getting shorter.
One thing that gave me hope was talking to children in Compassion’s program that were healing. One of those was Leadership Development Program (LDP) student Ferlandie Fadius, 19, who was suffering from post-traumatic stress (I wrote about her in last year’s Hope for Haiti Compassion Magazine). There was a lot to that story, more than the available space in the magazine could fit. Here’s more:
As Port-au-Prince and all of Haiti uncovers itself from the rubble, Ferlandie is still seriously grappling with the horror of being covered up by the body of her dead cousin and a mass of concrete when the earthquake hit. Her road to recovery will not be easy. And there can be no shortcuts.
I am still curious about how Ferlandie was rescued, so we arrange to go to her collapsed home. She and her mother agree to take us there, but we are concerned that it will trigger too many painful emotions, so we take separate cars.
It’s hot. We scramble onto the rubble. A small crowd gathers. The stench from the ten bodies still trapped underneath the pile becomes so bracingly bad that our driver leaves and vomits. Everyone else has taken their shirts and put them over their mouths as a sort of shield. But it doesn’t work.
A boy emerges from the crowd. In broken French, I ask him who he is.
“I rescued Ferlandie,” he says. He is Jean Marie Brice, a neighbor who runs a small sundries shop out of his home just around the corner. He used to sell her soap, he tells us.
“I was walking up the street when the quake hit, and after everything settled down, me and some friends heard people inside this pile of rubble,” he says, pointing to Ferlandie’s former home. “It was hard to get to her. She was deep inside.”
Brice takes us to the site, telling us how he and his friends worked as a team that night to break apart the concrete slabs with hammers and tools they had rummaged from the area.
“Each hit on the concrete reverberated throughout my whole head and body,” Ferlandie tells us later. “I asked God to give me strength, and I had enough to cry out.”
The cries compelled Brice and his friends to keep working. It took them over three hours of hard-core pounding on the concrete to break enough of it away to finally reveal a face.
We jettison the French. Our driver, Jeannot Chataign, 33, a Compassion Haiti tour specialist, takes over for us. “The rescuers thought her cousin was Ferlandie,” he says. “Ferlandie had to tell them that no, that was her dead cousin, and that she was underneath her.”
Finally, near midnight, Brice and the others pull Ferlandie from underneath her cousin. “If it were not for her cousin’s body being on top of her to cushion the blows,” Brice says grimly, “Ferlandie would have died.”
Her story does its own reverberating in our minds. We are impressed that she is doing as well as she is, and optimistic that she and other LDP students like her can regroup and become the change agents that Haiti is obviously going to need.
Two days later, just as we are leaving to fly back to America, Ferlandie walks into the Compassion office. She is smiling. “I do not know why I am alive and my sister and cousin are dead,” she says. “I know there must be a reason. I don’t know what it is, but God does.”
This is the raw faith that caught the eye of the LDP student selection committee, and it is the faith that will sustain her. “I feel speechless about how much Compassion has done for me,” she says as we leave to catch our flight home. Ferlandie is the last Compassion child we see before we leave Haiti.
Fast forward to September, 2010. A shrill whistle jars me awake. It’s coming from the street outside my spartan Port-au-Prince hotel room, and it won’t stop. In a fog from two days of travel to get here in the dark and rain the night before, and already nota fan of how this pre-dawn traffic cop rolls, I throw open the curtains only to be confronted by the sight of a jam-packed tent city directly across the street, a scant 20 yards from me. In plain view, an elderly woman stoops over a bucket of murky water, washes the night’s grime from her body and pats herself with a grungy hand cloth. She is standing in the mud. I shake my head in disbelief. We are so close. But we are so far, far apart. “It doesn’t sound like much has changed down there,” friends and colleagues tell me before my return to Haiti.
Perhaps not. But somewhere on this trip I ask about Ferlandie, and I learn she is doing well. That’s all I need to know: if she is doing well then what Compassion is doing is working. Looking at the woman washing herself in the tent camp across from my room, it’s hard to imagine that Haiti can come back stronger than before, like some believe. But looking inside Compassion projects and the hearts of those Compassion-assisted children affected by what happened on January 12, that’s an entirely different story.SHARE THIS POST: