A Haitian man searches for food in the rubble of what used to be a grocery store. Police officers accuse him of looting. They shoot and kill him, leave for an hour, come back and set his body on fire. Witnessing the entire episode, Wilson Sefo, a 23-year-old relief worker, tries to carry on with the delivery of food to earthquake survivors in Haiti.
“In the midst of an emergency you find yourself more strong than in the middle of a war,” Sefo said. “There are, of course, days where I wanted to cry, when I wanted to run, when I wanted to stop.”
Nevertheless, this is Sefo’s third volunteer trip from his native Dominican Republic to Haiti. He is a university student who works with the DREAM Project, a network of not-for-profit schools. When the quake struck on Jan. 12, he went to a hospital on the Dominican side of the border to help translate for patients and staff. On Jan. 16, he arrived in Port-au-Prince to help set up a temporary hospital.
Interviewed in Caraballo Dominican Republic following the quake, Sefo admitted it was the first time he had ever witnessed destruction of this magnitude.
“(It was) devastating, totally horrible,” he said. “If you can imagine 40 per cent of the construction was destroyed…(I) didn’t think there was any hope … and there was nothing that (could) be done. But as more organizations arrived everyone started working together and it felt like ‘OK, there is a way,’” he said.
Sefo slept in the street with the people of Haiti for 22 days while distributing food and tarpaulins to make shelters. He worked in hospitals trying to help. He is currently assisting in translation for the children in Haitian orphanages. With so many non-Haitians in the earthquake zone, Sefo said a great deal got lost in translation.
“Everyone who arrived to help was very difficult (to work with) because they didn’t speak the language; they want to help but they don’t understand the needs,” he said.
While he was working in a makeshift hospital on his first mission, Sefo said he witnessed a young boy about four years old with his entire left side torn open by falling rubble. He did not know how to react, he said, but found the strength he needed in the people.
“I would keep telling myself that if I cry, if I show the people the hopelessness that I feel inside. They are depending on me for hope so what do they have if that’s what I show them? It’s more to keep the strength to demonstrate to the people,” he said.