On an ordinary Tuesday afternoon, around 5 o’clock on January 12th, 2010, as people got ready to finish a long work day, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake shook Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince with one of history’s most destructive natural calamities. The country, which shares a border with the Dominican Republic on the island of Hispaniola, lies between two large tectonic plates, or the Enriquillo Plantain Garden fault system, located between North America and the Caribbean. The effects of the earthquake were unimaginable in reality. On the same day, eight more aftershocks were felt throughout the region, followed by 52 recorded aftershocks for the next two weeks. Some 300,000 buildings were destroyed, and an estimated 316,000 people died. Over a million people were displaced as a result of this catastrophic incident.
Karim Hakim, who was part of the first-ever Youth for Haiti program in 2010, can never forget Haiti and its impact on him. The program gathered college students from around the country for a two-week-long trip, where they could interact with locals and assist volunteers with their relief efforts in the region. “It's impossible to visit Haiti without leaving a piece of your heart there,” he says. Hakim now serves as the Regional Manager of the Southern California region at Helping Hand for Relief and Development.
“The orphaned children smiling, widowed mothers in the hospital praising their Lord, and struggling families keeping their heads held high -- they did more for me than I could ever do for them,” says Hakim. This past year alone, HHRD supported 500 orphans in Haiti. Many other HHRD programs are prevalent in Haiti, including Education Support, Ramadan Food, Skills Development, and Learning.
HHRD’s Director of Compliance, Nuzhat Javed recalls the youth trips to Haiti and all the work the organization has helped with. “The conditions that the Haitians live in are unimaginable,” she recalls. “The young volunteers on these trips would do anything to help the children in Haiti. They even helped them organize mini fundraisers so the children could get themselves toys. I can still remember the expressions on the faces of the volunteers and the children, it is unexplainable”
One of the volunteers from Chicago was eighteen-year-old Hannan Ouyoun. “Since I have come back, I have encouraged so many of my close friends to join this trip next year because you come back with a more wholesome perspective on what goes on in countries struck by natural disasters,” says Hannan, whose experience in Haiti was life-changing.
This year, the anniversary comes weeks after the passing of HHRD’s Haiti Coordinator, Saqib Attique, which makes the 13th year of the devastating earthquake all the more significant. Saqib Attique poured his life into Haiti and the relief work that was being conducted in the region. Karim Hakim remembers his first trip with Brother Saqib and says, “The first person I met stepping in Haiti was Br. Saqib Attique. Even though he hadn't been there long, at that point, it was as if he had been there for years. Challenging conditions in Haiti didn't deter Br. Saqib at all, and showed us how to treat these challenges like facts of life and plow throw them one by one.” Brother Saqib’s devotion and commitment to the Haiti cause have helped change countless lives in the country, giving them hope for a stable, brighter, and safer future. “It's not enough to mention that Br. Saqib loved Haiti. Haiti loved him back,” Hakim says.
HHRD’s presence in Haiti has ensured shelter and food for thousands of people since 2010, and the country’s rehabilitation has been the organization’s top priority. The strength of the local people gives HHRD and its donors the motivation to continue their efforts and change lives.
To learn more about HHRD’s work in Haiti, visit www.hhrd.org/Haiti
About the Author: Hiba Khan is the Marketing Content Lead for Helping Hand USA.