January 13th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

My Take: Haiti’s earthquake, one year later

Editor’s Note: Kent Annan is the co-director of Haiti Partners, the author of “After Shock: Searching for Honest Faith When Your World is Shaken” (InterVarsity Press, 2011), and blogs at http://www.kentannan.com.

by Kent Annan, Special to CNN

On January 12, 2010, so much came crashing down in Haiti—on people who lost their lives, on people who lost everything but their lives. And it was only the beginning of the suffering.

A year later, it’s easy to make a list of urgent, intertwined needs: security, jobs, government (including a mired election), corruption, infrastructure, health/cholera, food, education, environment, a million people still homeless, the release of international aid, and so on. There is some progress and also much reason for frustration.

For eight years my work has focused on education in Haiti. Since the earthquake we’ve pressed to continue that work and also respond directly, such as rebuilding three quality elementary schools and many other projects. It’s encouraging, until you look around and see how much need remains.

At this anniversary what rises to the surface for me is moments with people during the past year:

Six days after: Stooping down to crawl under the sticks holding up a sheet that was now “home” to the family of twelve that my wife and I had lived with for seven months when we moved to Haiti eight years ago. Outside the village of Darbonne, Haiti, near the earthquake’s epicenter, their small concrete-block tin-roof home, without running water or electricity, had collapsed.

Three months after: standing next to a collapsed university in Port-au-Prince with the smell of death from students still unrecovered only a few steps away. I stand with a friend of mine who had been on the third floor and somehow survived. A man sells us cold Cokes from his cooler; he has to keep making a living.

Five months after: Attending church under a tent. I’m happy to see the new setup. Three weeks after the earthquake I had taken communion with people next to the pile of jagged rubble that was once the church. Now we’re under a tent. Nearly everyone in the church that day lost their homes. Many have lost someone close to them. But their faith carries my leaden prayers heavenward.

A few weeks ago: arriving at an urban tent camp where more than 50,000 people live. It’s “Sean Penn’s camp” and well run. Our organization, Haiti Partners, is doing a USAID-funded education program to build collaboration skills and encourage civic participation for 1,000 educators and grassroots leaders.

I sit under a tent with 22 people living in the camp. They’ll be discussing the Haitian constitution. We break into small groups of 5. They talk about their fears. They joke too. A Haitian friend takes our picture. They make fun of my muddy tennis shoes. Linda, 20, sees the photo and says, “Mwen bel!” I’m beautiful. She’s an attractive woman, but it’s not that. She somehow hasn’t been crushed by losing everything.

“What’s the biggest challenge you each face right now?” I ask our small group. The list is so long, I want to understand what feels most pressing to them, whether security, food, education, or something else.

“There are too many kids living in the streets,” says bel Linda. “If it were possible, I’d start an orphanage.”

She had mentioned earlier having to be vigilant to avoid being raped, but the greatest need that comes to mind for this young woman, who is herself one half-step away from homelessness, is how to help other kids.

I’m not telling you this to show how selfless Haitians are; they’re no more good, bad, or “resilient” than the rest of us. But I tell you as an example of the deep desire people have to make better lives for their families and country.

It’s easy to watch the occasional news, shake our heads with (patronizing) sympathy at Haiti, and get the impression, “I guess we have to do it for them.”

Haiti does desperately need help, but we can’t just do it for them. Of all that has been lost, broken, shattered in the last year, what cannot be taken away is the deep desire I see in Haiti of people who want to improve their country themselves.

The truth is there are not short answers or easy solutions. In an article like this I’m supposed to choose from the problems I listed earlier and then confidently tell you what will or won’t turn things around for Haiti. While we work hard to be strategic, honestly I don’t know what will end up working.

But one thing I can tell you with confidence, with great confidence, is there are many Lindas who want to change things.

The country’s situation is bad now and could get worse. I know she might fail and there are extraordinary circumstances lined up against her, but I refuse to dismiss—and want to be part of—what she and Haiti can accomplish.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Kent Annan.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Church • Opinion

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    March 10, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
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    February 4, 2011 at 2:16 am |
  6. Muneef


    You know although have disagreed with you for so long and tried to defend and protect Islam and Religion but some how now I agree with you that it is better to live as secular nations even if had religions among our communities...?

    You will ask me why I will say it is true Religions can not be taken or depended on as rulers! Again you will ask why that is?
    I will say seeing who Religions became very very Rich from it's followers but will not support the living of other poor branches of their faith! We see here that the rich Christian branches are not supporting for example this Coptic branch in Egypt working as Rubbish collectors and junk yards? Say have Christians helped it to have a decent life or at least develop what they know best with equipment's at least towards recycling as green move this way they would have helped them needy for decent living and conserved environment and nature? But instead of that they would ignore of compel them to become into their path before they give a lending hand or assistance....?!? Well am not saying Christians among them selves only but even for Islam and Judos are no different from that and that's why you have uneven wealth and growth distribution !?
    We have a saying that says "To cut mans living is like cutting his head and those who depend on him for support"!? This is called Poverty and Hunger which makes Man Angry and who becomes Angry Rebels against all if no justice or mercy found in to undertaking terrorist acts against the di-scrim-inating systems on basis of Faith or Path or Race !? Any statistics how many poor and rich from the branches of each faith of at least the three Abrahamic faiths or Religions ?!? Only then we will know how cruel they are to each other when God says in his scriptures that we are all descended from one nation..the nation that were saved by Noah's Ark PBUH...! We are one nation being on the Faith of Abraham and derived from him and his followers!? But still Brother to Brother or Faith to Faith or Path to Path or Branch to branch are being stingy to each other and Greed drive them against each other, the living being means nothing to them as being just a Mankind a Human Being a creation among creations...!? So it is either with us or against us thing...!?
    We have to drive those branches to share love,charity and respect of belief among them selves and then driving those three Religions to have the same among them selves only then we will see peace and prosperity on people of earth and only then you will find disbelievers believe that there is God because there is love of sharing and caring among all otherwise sorry to say Religions are no different than Gangsters who have no love for God Creations believers or not...!?
    Peace to you Reality and Guys for helping me to realize why you dispute religions and not for disbelieving but for knowing that this is not what is reflected on earth towards each other as you saw more hate among them than it is love and more wars among them than it is peace...?!?
    But surely what we are doing is not the right solution to correct this and to make them do what they should for good deeds causes and not co-nspir-acy causes..nor for ra-ci-al causes....!? The Charity is to help them to make a decent living and not to feed them only doing nothing,but are to get them to help and support them selves making a living...!? And such as those could be become the driving force for nature conservation and green recycling projects and so on....?!                           

    January 14, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  7. Allan Rosenthal

    What has happened to the hundreds of millions of dollars donated to the Haiti earthquake victims, who is accounting for/managing it, and why isn't housing being constructed with it for all of the people living in the tents ?

    January 14, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Muneef

      In the pockets of the contractors and the expensive foreign helpers as understood from rites took place some time ago...!?!

      January 14, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  8. Steve the real one

    The truly sad part is even with millions and millions in aid there seems to be little or no improvement. Where is all that money going?

    January 14, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  9. Le Timmy


    January 14, 2011 at 8:43 am |
    • pete

      What is a green leafy vegetable?

      January 14, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  10. Muneef

    Some one said it was not a natural earthquake and that it was a man made one just for a clean invasion and only God knows the truth !

    January 14, 2011 at 5:59 am |
  11. And the winner is...

    Another bleeding heart issue. Tragic, sad, unfortunate and cruel but who decides where these should be filed. While I am grateful the writer did not invoke god this is a blog for religion.
    On another note, if I had a nickel for every crazy loon who thinks the world is going to end in some end of days/Revelations event, I would be rich.

    January 13, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
  12. Muneef


    Kindly just check the link;


    January 13, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  13. Gary

    I sincerely feel bad for Haitians especially the precious children. Sadly they do need to fend for themselves eventually @ least. I give to paralized veterans and tx childrens hospital. My pockets are too empty for foreign nations right now.

    January 13, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  14. Yonathan Moya

    Experience Mission has made an immediate commitment to help families in this region clear the rubble left by the earthquakes impact. Join us to bring Hope to Haiti. http://www.experiencemission.org/CommunityPage.asp?Community=-haiti-mission-trips-&CommID=13A34E3F-1CA0-4535-9AB5-B74D139CA08D

    January 13, 2011 at 11:51 am |
  15. Jean-Francois Trimba

    Keep up the good work Kent! check out the great reviews and discussion of the book over at Patheos:

    January 13, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  16. Muneef

    Heavy Floods and mud slides in Brazil + Heavy Floods in the Philippines...and in Sri Lanka...

    January 13, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • Muneef

      Adding Thiland floods...volcano in Italy.... We should expect soon to see heavy hunger and starvation coming in the way as results of such floods... Wonder if we should expect gog and mugog soon ?

      January 13, 2011 at 9:58 am |
  17. HumpinTimmy

    Who cares...let that island of corruption and stupidity fend for itself.

    January 13, 2011 at 9:12 am |
  18. Reality

    Once a day WARNING for new commentators:

    • The moderators of this blog have set up a secret forbidden word filter which unfortunately not only will delete or put your comment in the dreaded "waiting for moderation" category but also will do the same to words having fragments of these words. For example, "t-it" is in the set but the filter will also pick up words like Hitt-ite, t-itle, beati-tude, practi-tioner and const-tution. Then there words like "an-al" thereby flagging words like an-alysis and "c-um" flagging acc-umulate or doc-ument. And there is also "r-a-pe", “a-pe” and “gra-pe”, "s-ex", and "hom-ose-xual". You would think that the moderators would have corrected this by now considering the number of times this has been commented on but they have not. To be safe, I typically add hyphens in any word that said filter might judge "of-fensive".

    • More than one web address will also activate “waiting for moderation”. Make sure the web address does not have any forbidden word or fragment.

    Sum Dude routinely updates the list of forbidden words/fragments.

    Two of the most filtered words are those containing the fragments "t-it" and "c-um". To quickly check your comments for these fragments, click on "Edit" on the Tool Bar and then "Find" on the menu. Add a fragment (without hyphens) one at a time in the "Find" slot and the offending fragment will be highlighted in your comments before you hit the Post button. Hyphenate the fragment(s) and then hit Post. And remember more than one full web address will also gain a "Waiting for Moderation".

    January 13, 2011 at 7:52 am |
  19. Muneef

    Signs towards The Last Hour.
    Due to an accident with a tanker early this morning at St. Goar on the Rhine, the German water police has shut down the Rhine at the scene of the accident. The tanker, loaded with 2400 tons of sulfuric acid capsized.
    There were no indications that the ship was leaking, and testing on the Rhine downstream showed no abnormalities, the Associated Press reported. Sulfuric acid is soluble in water and has many uses in the chemical industry, including for lead-acid car batteries and oil refining. The ship was traveling from Ludwigshafen in southern Germany to Antwerp, Belgium.


    Those called the Greats will bring the last Hour Before it's time with their acts...

    Al-Naml sura 27:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    And there were in the city nine persons who made mischief in the land and reformed not. (48) They said: Swear one to another by Allah that we verily will attack him and his household by night, and afterward we will surely say unto his friend: We witnessed not the destruction of his household. And lo! we are truthtellers. (49) So they plotted a plot: and We plotted a plot, while they perceived not. (50) Then see the nature of the consequence of their plotting, for lo! We destroyed them and their people, every one. (51) See, yonder are their dwellings empty and in ruins because they did wrong. Lo! herein is indeed a portent for a people who have knowledge. (52) And we saved those who believed and used to ward off (evil). (53).

    Al-Shuara sura 26:
    And obey not the command of the prodigal, (151) Who spread corruption in the earth, and reform not. (152).

    January 13, 2011 at 6:32 am |
    • bill

      I have lived my long life watching "religion" , of all kinds. There are many "gods", many "beliefs", and billions of "believers". The common thread among them all is two-fold. Each "god" is the one and only "true" god, and the continuing of preaching the gospel sic. depends on MONE contributions. I hate to be the one to deliver the facts. You cab spew religious quotes from YOUR scriptures, or hate the opposing "religion" as long as you want. Now you ALL can hate me. There is no god. There is no such place as Heaven. You will not ascend to some euphoric place where only love and kindness abounds. Whe you die your only voyage will be to the cemetary. You will decay, be remembered in the minds of your loved ones, and for a while in the minds of your enemies. That is it. We are a pathetic small speciec living on a ball of dirt and water whirling through a very dangerous void. One day we will follow many other species and disappear. However, as long as we believe in "god and Heaven" we don't question the antics,greed, manipulations of out slave masters. After all, we are going to a "better" place ! The gpvernments of Earth love religion. It's called watch "the moving ball" by magicians.

      February 2, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.