There is a special word in Haitian Creole – ‘kombit’.
It means joining together to accomplish something.
She endured dreadful nightmares and feared each day’s fresh snowfall.
Tired, weak and malnourished.
Removed from her homeland, taken to a foreign country, all alone, no blood relatives, just strangers all around.
Just three years old.
Her name, Betchilove.
Her ordeal a terrible one, but Betchilove ranks amongst the fortunate.
You see, Betchilove is Haitian.
These days, two years on, she is thriving in Canada, an accomplished skier, a regular little girl, her adoptive family, having plucked the underfed orphan from the dust and rubble in Port-au-Prince, providing all she needs.
Betchilove has suffered much, that’s for sure, but hers is a tale that proves that, from even the greatest despair, there can be hope.
The thing that made the difference, connection.
Someone to reach out, to extend a helping hand, in this case the Bauer family, their home in Calgary, far removed from the devastation that the massive earthquake inflicted that awful afternoon.
The greatest natural disaster in recent times lasted a mere 35 seconds.
The scars it left are sure to endure forever.
Not everyone was as fortunate as Betchilove, the earthquake costing around 316,000 Haitians their lives and a further 1.5 million their homes.
It also orphaned countless children – it’s tragic, this, but no-one knows the exact number – and made living conditions for those left behind beyond unbearable.
In the two years that have passed since January 12, 2010, things have begun to improve.
But please, don’t be fooled.
Port-au-Prince remains a disaster zone and the suffering continues.
Governments around the world have poured in money, but it’s people making the biggest difference to lives on the ground because it’s people providing the hope.
People like the Bauers and the innumerable others providing sanctuary, safety and shelter to the children left destitute.
Those still administering aid, sharing love, rebuilding lives and striving to re-establish the infrastructure.
Those, such as our friend, Kevin O’Hanlon, raising funds and using their talents to highlight Haitian plight.
Those using their status to underline the issues.
Prominent amongst the latter group, Donna Karan, the fashion designer most renowned for her DKNY label, her humanitarian efforts often flying under the radar.
Donna Karan has seen Haiti at first hand. It has changed her life.
You see, Donna has looked beyond the fallen buildings and mangled roads, concentrating instead on the people and the thing that is driving them forward.
To quote her, at some length, ‘I believe there is an alternate story, one that isn’t being captured. My Haiti, the Haiti I have come to know and love, is home to such resilience, such creativity, such impassioned people. I believe that where there is creativity, there is hope. Hope is all over Haiti. Hope is Haiti.
‘Haiti is a story of extraordinary beauty, it is inspiring each time I visit. It’s like I’m seeing the world through a child’s eyes. The wonder of what is possible tells the story of triumphant humanity. This is why I want everyone to experience it – not just to be inspired by the potential of Haiti, but also to remember the potential of our collective humanity.
‘Haiti has served as a catalyst in my life – propelling me forward, challenging me to create, collaborate and communicate with greater vision. In everything I do, I always consider the past, present and future and the mind/body/spirit connection. Haiti connects the dots for me.’
Donna Karan captures the essence, the spirit and the beauty, seeing the bigger picture, feeling the connection.
She knows, as do all invested in this, that for hope to endure, great challenges must still be overcome.
But at least there is hope.
In a nation that, even before the earthquake struck, ranked as the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, with no free public education, where not even half the adult population can read and where social services are negligible, hope is perhaps the most valuable of all commodities.
It is hope – and love – that people like the Bauer family, Donna Karan and Kevin O’Hanlon are spreading.
It is connection at its most pure.
It is making a difference.
These are all qualities that drive our efforts here in Saunderstown, the things that underpin our OMs, and we salute all those striving to make things better for the people of Haiti.
For those less fortunate.
For one and all.
Shining a light, changing a life.