As you are all aware, on Tuesday the 12th of January 2010, Haiti was struck by one of the worst earthquakes in recent times. Since then, we have been bombarded with news reports and images of the disaster, which, as with other such news stories, can unfortunately become banal.expected even.
However the reality is, the sinking feeling we experience at the first moment we are made aware of the news – for me it was sitting in my living room in Nigeria, while watching the heart-wrenching images attempt to convey the magnitude of the disaster – is only a fraction of what the inhabitants of the affected area are living through; Haiti is no different. The extent of the damage is such that the entire population has been affected, with more than 100,000 reported dead. The good news is the world has responded in a tremendous way, and the country has seen an influx of rescue and aid workers over the past two weeks.
Some of us have come to know Haiti through this disaster, but before Haiti was a news “item du jour”, it was every bit as much home to Section F’s very own Alika Phipps, who is from Haiti. Below, she shares some of Haiti through her eyes.
HARBUS: What is your favorite thing about Haiti?
ALIKA: The people! Even now you see that amidst this disaster, people are still smiling, singing, coming out with nothing. They’re full of generosity and are committed to helping others despite their own condition. It’s hard to believe they are still so full of life and energy. That’s what I love about home.
HARBUS: What city did you grow up in?
ALIKA: Port-au-Prince – that’s home home to me!
HARBUS: Tell us what you remember about growing up in Haiti.
ALIKA: There are so many things.let’s see. I distinctly remember kids building kites and flying them everywhere. Sometimes the kites would get caught in the electricity wiring. Oh, and whenever there is a soccer match or, in particular, the World Cup, the whole country goes completely silent except for when there is a goal, and then you hear a rumbling throughout Port-au-Prince! Also, Haitians are really artistic; the whole country is filled with people selling the most beautiful art on street corners. In the US, this artwork would likely be selling in galleries.
I can keep going! The community is really tight-knit in Haiti. You grow up with the same people you go to school with, and all your family and your best friends live literally 5 minutes away. And finally we have such gorgeous beaches. The beach is my happy spot at home.
HARBUS: What’s your favorite dish from home?
ALIKA: Mmmm! [Excited look on her face].Rice and beans! A meal is not complete without it. When I first came to the US, I did not feel I had eaten during lunch or dinner without my rice and beans. My favorite way to have it is white rice and red bean sauce. The sad thing is I can’t cook it – when I try, it always turns into mushy rice and beans. But it’s so good – mmmm!
HARBUS: What famous Haitian person should we know?
ALIKA: Wyclef Jean! And a lot of our artists and writers should be recognized – one of the more popular Haitian writers is Edwidge Danticat. You should check her out if you’re looking for something different.
HARBUS: Tell us about the best known cultural anecdote
ALIKA: The protagonist in all Haitian stories is Toto – a little kid who gets in trouble all the time. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you the more “interesting” stories, as they are not all politically correct [impish grin]. If any reader is interested, they can approach me to hear more.
HARBUS: If we go to Haiti in the future, what should we definitely do?
ALIKA: It’s hard to pick one thing.definitely visit some of the most beautiful beaches in the world! There’s also a lot of history in Haiti. For instance, Citadel is a fortress in the northern part of Haiti, and it’s a world heritage site. You should also get a good home-cooked meal while you’re there; make friends with the hotel attendants if you have to! And Carnival, though not as big as Brazil, is just as fun.
HARBUS: What is the best way the HBS community can help to support the citizens of Haiti?
ALIKA: In the short-term, donations are really critical. Although in-kind is appreciated, a lot of the organizations right now are only accepting money. Rebuilding Haiti is going to take years, decades even. So when the reporters have left Haiti and it’s no longer headline news, that’s when the real hard work begins. At that time, definitely consider giving time in addition to money to help the nation rebuild.
HARBUS: Do you want to add anything else?
ALIKA: I just want to say thank you. There’s been so much support from the HBS community; it’s been really, really appreciated. Thank you so much!
On that note, I know that many people have already donated money or have somehow contributed to the situation in Haiti. However, let’s do more! As part of the broad HBS community, let’s commit to pushing the envelope more than we ordinarily would and make a slightly bigger indent in our sphere of impact. I have never met a more supportive, creative and able group of people than I have met during my time at HBS, and when all these people and their complimentary assets come together, amazing things happen!! Think volunteer trip over spring break, Habitat for Humanity summer 2010, etc.
Other ways to donate:
Partners in Health
Section F is with you all the way, Alika!