Haiti’s challenge just beginning

The Hope for Haiti event at the Toronto campus of the francophone Collège Boréal in January featured an address and song by Prof. Marléne Thélusma Rémy, 57.

The struggle Rémy experienced trying to contact her family back home in Haiti demonstrates the real challenges that face the country in the aftermath of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated the country a month ago.

Her  mother, Éloise, 84, was visiting family during the quake. “Thank God, she survived and is on her way back to Canada,” Rémy said.

But Rémy’s adopted brother Élise Joseph perished in the tragedy.

“He will be missed. He was like a true son to my mother,” she said.

Boréal shares the building at 951 Carlaw Avenue in East York with Centennial College, and like other Boréal staff and students, Rémy is of Haitian descent.

“The Friday after the quake, (my mother) was able to contact us on a cellular telephone.  That was our first contact with her,” Rémy said. But communication was intermittent following that early contact: “After (Friday), we had no communication until the following Thursday.”

Éloise was in a town called Les Cayes during the quake, about 250 km from the epicentre in Port-au-Prince. However, in order to return to Canada, she had to pass through the capital where the embassy is located and where the greatest devastation occurred. There, Éloise met Rémy’s cousin, who lives closer to the capital, in Carefour.

“When I called my cousin and asked where they were, they said, ‘We are in the road… but right beside our property’,” Rémy said. “Those that lost their homes were in the street but in an orderly fashion.”

Rémy is very thankful for the world’s response given the situation, but feels the fashion in which supplies were distributed was wanting.

“What I found should be done but perhaps wasn’t done correctly is the manner in which aid was distributed,” she said. “I watched on TV as hundreds of thousands of people arrived (to the trucks delivering supplies).”

She added: “It’s categorically impossible (to organize them in one single place). They should have organized them by zone.”

Rémy explained that while the homes of people like her cousin were destroyed, Haitian people weren’t running amuck in the streets. Like her family, people would stay by their properties amongst neighbours.

Rémy wants to ensure that international response continues.

“I hope this response is not just an emotional one but that it’s genuinely long-term,” she said. “I’m making a request to the whole world to keep going… to help Haiti fully emerge from this impasse.”

The song she sang:

Haiti You Will Triumph

The hand in the hand of the Lord

Haiti, you will triumph

Your hand in His hand on these sombre paths

You will have a beautiful morning

With joy you will see appear

The sun dissipating the clouds

A smile on your beautiful face

Hand in hand we walk

On the road of unity

Hand in hand we will change your face

To the end of the path of love

The eternal will deliver you

One day, from all your

Your mantra is “Unity Creates Faith”

With that, a miracle is possible

Helping hands will come from all over

Yes, these hands will hold you until the end

The middle class, the rich, the poor

With the same love, the same hope

Hand in hand we walk

On the road of unity

Hand in hand we will change your face

To the end of the path of love

We will unite together

To sing you a song

We will consult the Haitian artists

To dedicate a song of love to you

We will play harps and flutes

To dedicate holy hymns

We will give you grand honour

Because the Lord will dry your tears

Hand in hand we walk

On the road of unity

Hand in hand we will change your face

To the end of the path of love