News - November 4, 2010

An internship in post-earthquake Haiti

Who? Nicolien Overbeek, student of International Development Studies
What? An internship with World Concern
Where? Haiti
Why? To get some experience of the practical side of her subject

'I went to Haiti in May, a couple of months after the earthquake. I have two Haitian adopted brothers and I was curious about the situation in the district where they were born. You can see from the state of the roads in the capital that it's a poor country and then you can also see rubble and shattered houses everywhere. But the earthquake did more damage than that. It sowed anxiety. Whereas I could enjoy the interior of a church, the local people pointed at the cracks in the walls. Not earthquake-proof, they said. Children are still not going to school and people don't dare go back into their houses because they are afraid of aftershocks or another earthquake. You can visit the ruins and the tented camps, but you still have no idea how it really was.
One of my tasks was to record the GPS coordinates of repaired houses and places where rubble was being cleared. Once I was taking the coordinates of a location when the clearing stopped for a while. The foreman told me that a body had been found and before I knew it, he was pointing at a leg just sticking out of the rubble. Then it came home to me that they weren't just clearing rubble, but that people really died. The people themselves say, 'We don't understand why it happened, but we trust that God wants the best for us.' And they carry on with their lives.
One day I was the guest of a family whose table was loaded with delicious things like fried bananas and goat meat. I had already eaten so much that I felt a bit antisocial, but my host went on loading my plate, to make sure I got enough. He didn't eat anything himself, but just watched me eat. When I left he expressed tremendous gratitude that I had come. I found that amazing because I had the feeling I had eaten the little they had.'