Last night we had dinner at a private home in the hills above PAP. The host told us that the day of the earthquake, his neighbor had just returned from a trip abroad. He called a friend and asked him to meet him at the Hotel Montana. They found the body of the neighbor several days later and his friend they could not verify if he was there or not until rescue workers found and arm and in the arm's hand was a cell phone and it was his.
When you hear them talk of a building pancaking, that is exactly what they did. Five story concrete buildings smashed into roughly one story. Building after building like that. Others slide down hills taking houses further down with them. It's surreal.
On the way to the airport, we passed a food and distribution point. Thousands in a line snaking through a tent camp and along the road. Very orderly and people very patient. The heat just adds to the misery. Coming down from the hills, we passed rocks and boulders which were in the road. It seems like every aftershock sends more stuff tumbling.
At the airport now and the morning flight from Miami has arrived, relief worker after relief worker coming in. I really don't think people back home realize the magnitude of this. It isn't as if this was a modern country or that people have financial reserves or family abroad or some means to get them through a temporary disruption in their lives. It's the complete breakdown of everything. It's a very, very poor country. People traditionally selling coal in large bags on the streets with which they cook. It's not even as if they have electric or gas stoves. What I'm trying to say is the level of living was so unbelievably low and then have this basic level ripped apart... You look for words... Crushed comes to mind just like some of the injuries they have.
It will take much time, much committment from the international community from individuals to stay the course and keep the life lines going. Whether that is $5 a month $50 a month, whether it is sponsoring a child so he/she can go to school or a family so they can eat or fundraising to buy solar panels for a village or water filtration system or a goat every other week so that orphans can have some meat every now and then with the rice and beans, whether it is buying school
supplies or sending a manual sewing machine to a woman who has lost her legs so she can earn a living and feed her children. It may be someone retired coming here and going to a mission orphanage and spending a week holding children, playing with them, washing them. Maybe it's a fundraiser to help a small parish in the country side buy a Toyota 4x4 so that a priest or a community can transport goods, supplies and even injured people miles to a clinic. A Toyota pick up is a life line.
The need here is beyond what can be imagined. The challenge for us is to make a committment, no matter how small would make not just a difference, but help someone to live. That's what people back home need to understand, whatever we do no matter how small, profoundly helps people and in many ways helps them to live.
After 5 days here and meeting numerous people and talking late onto the night, I've had the opportunity to learn much of what can be done. It's really so very simple.