JAMES MORGAN, JERSEYMAN IN HAITI
What made you want to get involved/help Haiti?
Seeing the suffering in Haiti and other disaster areas through the media I had always found it hard to come to terms with the idea that these places existed in the same world as beautiful prosperous places like Jersey. Having saved some money from working a year locally I decided to leave to go and travel to one of these countries, to work as a volenteer so that I could confront this world for myself.
What shocked you most when you first arrived?
The initial jeep ride from the airport through Port Au Prince left a impression on me I will never forget. It had been months since the earthquake had hit and yet still the scenes I witnessed from that passenger seat were of a city in ruins. Rubble lined the streets, IDP (Internally Displaced Person) Camps filled every open space and partially collapsed buildings looked as if they were about to topple around every street corner. The thing that stuck with me the most was the local translator of about 18 years of age who first greeted me at the airport. I had only been in the country for half an hour when, as we drove, I asked him about his experience of the earthquake. He answered by describing to me the story of how he had lost his mother when his house collapsed.
How long have you been in Haiti / do you intend to stay?
I have been in Haiti for 5 months now. I arrived at the beginning of July. I am currently on a contract that sees me staying here until April 2011. At that time I plan to return to Jersey to see my family and then after that I would like to return to Haiti to continue working on the project. Short term contracts with these kind of home breaks are the norm in the development/disaster relief industry.
What do you believe is the most beneficial / interesting project All Hands have undertaken in Haiti?
Due to my involvement in the Schools project I found this to be the most interesting and certainly of great benefit to the local communities. The rebuilding of schools is a hugely important step towards reclaiming family neighbourhoods and regaining some sense of normality into peoples lives. Allowing children to learn and play again together, and seeing the smiles on their faces gives me hope for the recovery.
Are All Hands making a difference?
Undoubtedly. Anyone can see the day to day progress that is made in the huge task of rubble clearance, the school building project, orphanage and many other projects that give All Hands a broad interaction with the local community. Besides the measurable results of their work they also play an important role within the NGO community. Most NGO workers zoom around in huge white jeeps with the windows wound up, All Hands Volunteers walk the streets, make friends with the Haitian community and effectively act as ambassadors for NGO presence within the country. This sends an important message of solidarity to the Haitians that the international community stands shoulder to shoulder with them.