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Haiti disaster strikes close to home

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Sent by BlackBerry from Oxfam organizer Sophia Lafontant to Oxfam colleagues at 5:16 a.m. this morning.

At this point, you have heard about the massive quake that hit Haiti. Naturally, I am a wreck and have the biggest heartache. As some of you might know, I was able to get in contact with friends and family in Portau Prince. The scene described was something out of a movie or war zone. Grey filled skies, dust debris, and broken structures and bodies.

Sophia Lafontant
Sophia Lafontant. Photo by Cheryl Colombo/Oxfam America.

After work, I when to my aunt’s house to be with family and wait for news.  We were all huddled in front of the TV and on cell phones sick with grief. My focus for the better part of the evening was my family in the capital city.  I was mainly concerned about them stupidly thinking that other parts of the island were safe. I did get word that my paternal grandma, aunt, and family orphanage are safe. The house has been damaged but we don’t know the extent of it.

Then later in the evening around 9 p.m. my cousin in Miami called to say that Jacmel—which is in the SE corner and maybe 25 miles away from Port-au-Prince—was badly damaged. I was shocked;  I hadn’t thought other parts were hit (as I wasn’t watching TV).  Her mother-in-law’s house (which is 5 miles from my maternal grandma’s) was split in two. I immediately got sick to my stomach and proceeded to try to reach my family there again. I had tried earlier but wasn’t able to get through but assumed they were ok since they weren’t at the epicenter of the quake.  I called cell phones but no answer.

I thought my family was out of harm’s way but at this point I don’t know if my grandma, her brother, and cousins are alive. And I can’t even begin to imagine what being alive in Haiti must feel like right now. The living situation for most was already untenable.

Sophia and her grandmother
Sophia and her grandmother, who lives in Haiti.

I am just so worried.

So I just ask that you keep Haiti in your thoughts and prayers. It’s a tough little island, but I fear this might break its back.

Oxfam is on the ground in Haiti. We are providing public health,  water,  and sanitation services. Please donate to our Haiti Emergency Response Fund today.

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  1. Andrea Perera

    Sent by BlackBerry from Sophia to Oxfam colleagues at 1:21 p.m. :

    This whole ordeal has hit me hard, especially with the close connection I feel towards Haiti. It is incredibly comforting to know that I have tremendously caring colleagues, friends and that Oxfam is operational in Haiti. Getting your messages filled with positive thoughts and willingness to help, helped me get out of bed.

    I just got word that my family in Jacmel is safe! A friend of the family reported that everyone is fine. The house directly behind my grandma’s is completed ruined and the entire town is badly damaged. I hear its a chaotic mess. My family slept in the nearby church as most people there were too afraid to sleep in their homes.

    Although I personally wasn’t able to reach my grandma its helped to hear this account from someone there.

    Thanks again for your support, thoughts and prayers.



  2. Pingback: Oxfam America Blog » Blog Archive » 21st Century Disaster Coverage

  3. Andrea Perera

    A quick note of thanks from Sophia:

    Dear all,

    Words cannot express my gratitude for your kind wishes and prayers for Haiti. This is Haiti’s darkest hour and the people will need us to remember them when the media stops covering the quake and its aftermath. Please do what you can large or small to help with relief and long term development efforts. In the words of Dr Martin Luther King “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: what are you doing for others.”


    Sophia Lafontant


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