Voices of Haiti by Jeremy Cowart
After the 7.0 earthquake rocked Haiti on January 12th of this year, I was deeply moved as most of you were. For days I watched as the television flashed images of gloom and doom… dead bodies, crumbled buildings… It just felt like a heartless display of numbers and statistics. “How were the people feeling?” I wondered. I was tired of hearing endless reports from strangers that just arrived to this devastated nation. So I decided to go to Port-Au-Prince myself and ask them directly. My question was simply “What do you have to say about all this?” This photo essay reveals the many answers to that question.
“The earth can shake but Haiti remains in my heart.”
Mathieu lost 2 siblings, but he still works the streets in hope of a better Haiti
“Love Conquers All.”
We heard that evening that there was a wedding taking place. Immediately we started driving around in the general area where the wedding was and we finally found it. The bride and groom were walking out the door as we pulled up. We explained the concept and they agreed right away. As soon as we asked them if they knew what they had to say, they wrote down “Love Conquers All.” It was a stunning statement for such a devastating time of need. After the photo was taken, we drove them to their “honeymoon” in a tent city.
“God do not abandon your children.”
The earthquake left over a million people homeless. We met this woman at one of the many makeshift tent cities where living conditions are incredibly difficult. “There is no worse feeling in the world, as a mother, than to be unable to properly take care of your child.”
“The fact that I’m still alive does not mean I’m better than the others.
It’s just a gift from God.”
This woman saw everything she owned collapse right in front of her. She now lives in a tent city among hundreds of thousands of others on what used to be Haiti’s only golf course.
“Having my leg chopped off is nothing.
What troubles me is my country’s government.”
This is a very common thought in Haiti. When I was there, the government was completely missing. Even cops were nowhere to be found. Haitians can get through injury and suffering. But they still need leadership.
“Where will I go when it rains?”
The rainy season is something Haitians fear even in the most normal of times. The quake destroyed over 250,000 houses and the homeless are now looking through the rubble for any piece of scrap to build themselves a new home.
“We need change for the youth.”
In Haiti, even before the quake, few people had access to schools. Official numbers are saying 90% of the schools were destroyed by the earthquake… elementary, middle, high schools, colleges, everything. This young man knows that something must change in order for his life and the life of his friends to get better.
“I wish I could turn back time.”
No description necessary.
“The backyard of January 12th.”
Tent cities have poppepd up everywhere. Hundreds of thousands of homes are destroyed. This sign should be the entrance sign for all of Port-Au-Prince.
“We’re afraid of the rain.”
When you combine a couple hundred thousand people living under sheets and sticks on hills made of dirt, you can imagine why they’re aftraid of the rain.
“I am not better than her!”
For 6 long days Christian searched the rubble for his older sister. He found her just before they gave up on the 7th day as someone was about to throw her in the trash. He said, “Hey, she’s not trash, she’s my sister!” He brought her home that day and buried her here in his front yard underneath where he’s sitting.
“A paradise in need of dire help!!!”
There are about 13,000 US soldiers in Haiti now. It is a tough job to keep a positive mindset when you are trying to help crowds of thousands of hungry people.
“Oh, the things I’ve seen!”
“I hope this never happens again. Too many people died.”
Amidst all of the destruction in downtown Port au Prince, we came across this kid washing his bike in a puddle of water. I remember an adult coming up and saying “Why are you photographing children?? They have nothing to say!” This little boy immediately wrote this when we handed him the marker.
“We need engineers to rebuild.”
Haiti needs help. They need a long term relationship with qualified people, engineers, doctors, teachers, leaders to help rebuild and put the country on steady tracks.
“May her soul rest in peace.”
This guy was walking around the streets just shell-shocked. We found him here standing in front of the rubble of the Port-Au-Prince Cathedral. You don’t see many men visibly carry heartbreak quite like he did. He had lost his only daughter and her drivers license was the ONLY possession of hers that he owned anymore. This moment was tremendously heavy for my team. I remember my assistant Julie just weeping after we talked to him. This is yet another moment and story that I’ll never forget.
“With the right equipment we could do wonders.”
For a minute I would be very inspired to see so many doctors and nurses working together from all around the world. (This man was a French doctor). Then I would be reminded of the harshness of the situation. They could do very little due to the lack of supplies.
“A lot of hands make the load lighter. Let’s rebuild haiti together.”
“We’re Haitian. We won’t give up.”
This man used to own a barbershop, which he reinstalled in this tent where a few people are living with him now. His message reinstates his acti
“Give us this day, our daily bread.”
As we stopped to take a picture this woman approached us asking for help. When we asked her what she had to say, she said that the only thing she wants is a can of milk for her kids. On a side note, this is one of three crosses I saw still standing. All three churches had been completely destroyed but the crosses stood unrattled.