First Person

Sebastian’s story

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Oxfam America’s Coco McCabe is one of several Boston-based colleagues in Haiti to help with the relief effort. Here’s her latest update, dated January 30; this blog is part two of a two-part series.

Read part 1

I went back to that camp yesterday. I wanted to talk to other children there.

Photo: Coco McCabe / Oxfam America
Photo: Coco McCabe / Oxfam America

One boy with a warm and gorgeous smile followed me around as I looked for kids to talk to. He listened carefully to the questions I discussed with one girl, and when I asked if I could talk with him as well, he said yes, his face bright with anticipation. His name is Sebastian Stermine and he is 12.

But as Sebastian told me his story, his voice fell almost to a whisper. I had to lean in close to hear him. He was sitting on the ground outside when the quake struck, he said. He jumped up and went to his mother, grabbing her for comfort, as did his two younger sisters. With their house in ruins, the small family wandered until they came to Delmas 62 and found a crowd gathering in the yard of a private compound whose walls had collapsed. They spent the night there—and have been there ever since, along with hundreds of other people. Oxfam is now digging banks of latrines for men and women at this makeshift camp.

At the camp, Sebastian’s days pass slowly. He helps his mother with a few chores—cleaning and fetching water. And occasionally he plays soccer, his favorite game, with other boys and a borrowed ball. But boredom—and the memories of that terrible late afternoon—seem to weigh heavily on him.

Sebastian says he thinks about the earthquake a lot, and it fills him with fear. He and his friends keep returning to it in their conversation, and worry about another quake striking the city.

“They say they are afraid for the earthquake to happen, because if it happens we will all die,” he said, adding that his aunt, uncle and two cousins were all seriously wounded on Jan. 12 and are now in a hospital.

Sleep, with the forgetfulness it brings, doesn’t come easily, either. His family spends the night on the ground without mattresses. His thoughts churn as he lies there, he says. The nights are cold. And with just one meal a day, he’s hungry.

Food, water, and a tent: That’s what Sebastian says would make life more tolerable for his family right now—essentials that reveal just how far away normal is for so many people in Port-au-Prince.

Invest in Haiti’s recovery by donating to Oxfam’s Haiti Earthquake Response Fund.

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