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The Real Haiti

By May 4, 2010January 17th, 2014Uncategorized

Went to see the amazing Arikia Millikan, who used to be my intern at Psychology Today, talk about her recent trip to Haiti. Slideshow + stories. Very moving. The Haitians, many of whom didn’t know what an earthquake was until it happened and had no word for it, call the earthquake “goudou goudou”—an onomatopoeia expressing the sound it made. Or they simply call it “the Thing,” as in, “I was in my car when the Thing happened,” or, “I lost both my daughters during the Thing.”

Arikia had also gone last year, before the earthquake, to visit her father and sister, who are Haitian. When she saw that her stepmother had a maid waiting at her beck and call, she was taken aback. “She’s there to do anything for you?” she said. “How much are you paying her?”

“I’m paying her enough to send her three children to a good school,” said her stepmother. “But let me explain something to you. I’m one person. I’m aware I’m better off than most people here, but all I have is my own income. I can’t help everybody.”

The lesson was driven home for Arikia when she returned last month. She was exploring a refugee camp for displaced earthquake victims—pitched on the ruins of the PetionVille country club—when she came upon a medical pavilion she thought was empty. She went inside only to find dozens of medical cots one next to another, and shuddered to think about all the bodies that must have been laid there during the triage only a few months ago.

Then she realized the tent wasn’t empty: there was a 13-year-old girl there with a baby of her own. The girl had lost everything in the earthquake, including her parents. The girl spoke to Arikia’s friend Alain in Creole, gesturing.

“What did she say?” said Arikia.

“She asked if you could take them with you when you leave,” said Alain. Arikia’s eyes filled with tears. “I can’t,” she said. “I’m sorry. I can’t.” She gave the girl all the money she had remaining and left, feeling powerless to do more to help. But there it is. You can’t help everyone.