Life is like an endless battle—a battle for survival. We live our lives day by day wondering what we were made for, wondering why we are here. But when we merely sit and wonder, when we fail to stand up and take action, we become lost and frozen in time. Haiti is precisely that: frozen. One year ago, our country was shaken, and us Haitians were jolted awake. One year later, we are waiting—waiting and wondering. Waiting for someone to save us.
The worst mistakes are the ones we never learn from. So many mistakes were made in Haiti before January 12, and since the devastating earthquake, we have done nothing to prevent the new mistake that is dangerously looming over us: not overcoming in order to move forward. As I drive to school in my expensive car, get an education in a prestigious school, and go back home to find a bed, warmth and food, all I see is the more clearly defined misery that surrounds me, a misery that reigns in the streets of Haiti and that has prevailed since January 12. As I open my ears to listen, I still hear agonizing and desperate cries for help. Now, I understand. We are exactly where we left off since that forbidding day. We are stuck.
Since the earthquake, we have neither faced nor accepted the inevitable change that conquered our lives a year ago. We have not cleansed the wounds inflicted upon us by the catastrophe in order to ease the throbbing pain we are still subject to. We have not overcome. Waiting is and has been our strongest suit. It has been 200 years since we gained our independence, one of our greatest achievements. 200 years later, however, we are still where we left off. Our mistake: we merely sat on our success instead of continuing to climb up and be more successful. Last year, we where hit by a devastating earthquake, the greatest disaster of which Haiti was a victim. One year later, here we are, waiting again, and we will continue to wait. As I look in every child’s eyes, I can see within them great depths of unhappiness and despair. Their eyes speak louder than their voices, begging for light, begging for hope, begging for someone to save them. As I listen to the news on the radio, all I hear is people pleading for the government to take them out of the tents, to give them food and shelter, to help them. Yes they need help, but the more they wait, the more they get lost, the more they lose hope. We are all lost and waiting to be found, and we will remain lost until someone decides to find us. But how about we try to find ourselves—save ourselves from the fate we are unconsciously allowing to take control of our lives We are incapable of moving forward because we are paralyzed by one thing: ourselves. How about we tackle the inevitable and create our own destiny. We must fight for what we want—fight until the end—because life is a battle. Life is a struggle—a struggle for survival.
I want and will continue to believe that Haiti is not broken—merely undefined. We do not know who we are. We are not defined by a vision. We have no direction. Blind is what we are and that is why we are going about our lives wondering and waiting. But the time has come; the time has come to open our eyes and to see ourselves for what we truly are: pathetic. We must own up to it. Then, we must rise. We must rise from the debris that has become our life, stand up straight, and start to move forward. Our motto at Union School this month is “inclusiveness.” Let us make this Haiti’s motto. Let us come together and join hand in hand in order to save ourselves, save each other, and create a better tomorrow. “When there is no vision, people perish.” This was stated in the Bible in Proverbs 29, Verse 18. After the earthquake, I truly hoped that this would be Haiti’s real wake up call. Although we did not realize it, we were sleepwalking through life, waiting for someone, something, to wake us up—to shake us. The earthquake did just that, but what if it was not enough. No country from the outside can help us. How can anyone help us if we cannot help ourselves? I believed that the aftermath of the earthquake—the destruction, the debris, the ugliness—would finally lead us to see that a change needs to be made, but this did not happen. Unity, I think now, is what we need. We must unite and realize that we are all in this mess together. We can’t back down and we can’t keep on blaming one another. Change is all around us. It is inevitable and is usually hard to accept. Change can destroy; change can create. We can’t fight it, but we can fight together in order to accommodate to it. What doesn’t break you will only make you stronger. I said it once, and I will say it again: Haiti is not broken. This only means that we can grow to be strong, and this must mean that hope is still alive.
As I continue to live my life in school and at home, I can see and feel that my friends have moved on; my family has moved on; I have moved on. The youth, I see, is ready to foster the change we so fervently need. They are eager to learn, eager to grow, eager to create. They want to change and be a part of something new. They are hungry to make a difference and to make history because they are the future. I am part of this future and I am confident that one day—be it today, be it tomorrow—I will give back to my country. I am still alive; I have survived and I want to be a part of this change. All around Haiti are NGOs and foreigners who are trying to help us. However, it is time that we Haitians realize that everyone has pity for us. They will not help us grow. They will not show us how to grow. We must learn to feed ourselves in order to blossom into something that is bigger than we could have ever imagined. We must learn to stand and walk instead of lean.
Life is a battle—a battle for survival. I used to be one of many survivors; it’s been a year since. Now I am a young adolescent looking towards a bright future, attempting to find what it is life has in store for me. My country, however, is not moving on with me. Haiti is still suffering. In order to change our circumstances, we must be the change we want to see in our country. Life goes on whether you like it or not, and you can either move with it or be left behind. Anything is possible and Haiti still has time to change. The real concern lies in how much time it will take us to realize that, eventually, time will run out. All we will be left with is regret. The time is now—right here, right now. We must take the initiative. We must let go of the past in order to move forward, and within this lies the battle, the struggle to survive. If we do not fight until we reach the surface, we will drown—drown in our own self-pity. If we wait, life will go on. Seconds will turn into minutes, and minutes into hours. The sun will rise, it will set, and it will rise again. Everything will continue to work the way it is supposed to, and everyone will continue to do what he or she has to. But us? We will be left behind. Let us all be part of this change instead of fighting against it. Let us win together or die together because together we can.
Port-au-Prince, Haiti, February 19, 2011
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Mathilde Pierre lives in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She is the daughter of Haitian entrepreneur Mathias Pierre. Her favorite quote comes from Benjamin Franklin: “What you seem to be, be really.”