TABARRE, HAITI—More than six months after a 7.0 earthquake devastated Haiti, it's hard to see signs of progress. Everywhere you look, the poorest country in the western hemisphere is still a mess with more than a million living in tents.
Father Rick Frechette is the National Director of the Friends of the Orphans, he believes the mess is unfair to the people of Haiti. "Everything reminds them, everything reminds them of what happened; so it's really hard to start healing psychologically" Frechette said. Norma Lopez said the misery has been difficult "it was so sad to see the suffering of people."
As you drive through the streets of Port-au-Prince you see there's still a lot of work to do. Piles of rubble and trash line the streets and there are miles of tents. Major landmarks like the presidential palace and the national cathedral sit in ruins. The worst part, by far, is the human suffering. In the last six months, life hasn't improved for many in Haiti.
22-year-old Fritz Celestan believes many Haitians are frustrated because they've lost everything and are tired of waiting for help. There is a very strong UN presence around the capitol city, Haitians say they see UN cars coming and going but not enough results.
Frechette believes it's important to make sure donations go to organizations that directly help the poor. Relief groups like Friends of the Orphans are doing what they can. After the earthquake, they focused on the immediate needs. They opened the gates of their pediatric hospital to everyone.
"We had people in the courtyard, we had people in tents outside; we were doing amputations day and night, 7-days-a-week" Administrator Judith Dohner explained. Across the street, at their day school for children with special needs, they have new equipment to make prosthetic arms and legs. They're training Haitians to use the equipment so they can fit the thousands of people who lost limbs in the earthquake.
Physical Therapist Norma Lopez said they're helping people learn how to deal with their injuries. "We can see that many of them are walking with new prosthesis, the patient who had fractures they are improving" Lopez explained.
On another part of the property, what used to be a soccer field is now a temporary orphanage for earthquake victims. They hope to move the children to another spot where they're turning old shipping containers into an orphanage.
Still, those who've been working here for years warn there is no quick fix. Gena Heraty, the Friends of the Orphans Coordinator for Special Needs Programs, has been in Haiti for 17 years. "There's no short term solution for Haiti" she said. "Before the earthquake people needed help long-term, now, they need it more so," Heraty explained.
Despite the current conditions and the challenges ahead, many Haitians are still hopeful. "I think to work in Haiti and to be in Haiti you really have to be people of hope," Dohner explained. She added "you see after 6 months so little has been done in the reconstruction, so we don't sit and weep and wonder when it's going to happen; people have set up their markets right in front of the rubble."
Father Frechette says he draws strength from the people and believes there is a brighter future for the country. He explained "it's important not to get fatigued by the way that the world is; and as Saint Paul said not to get tired of doing good, but keep working toward it."