Some of us in Fairfield County have lived extraordinary lives. We know this now, because we feel the constant ebb and flow of anxiety and stress that COVID-19 pandemic has introduced into our daily lives. The lack of control. The endless unknown. The ever-present threat. This is new to us. Some of us have had to adapt, because we have never known anything like this—not war, political upheaval, natural disaster or health crisis. Yet others have experienced them all, significantly, and they now live here with us. We turned to the nonprofit Hope for Haiti to see if they have advice for all of us on how to cope. Read on for a heartfelt response.
A Note from Hope for Haiti
COVID-19 has impacted our community and our country in so many ways. Routines have been disrupted, many people are now working remotely, families are trying to balance childcare with all their other responsibilities, and the health of our loved ones is at risk. In this unprecedented time of crisis and stress, we at Hope for Haiti would like to share some of what we have learned from times of hardship and upheaval. Education Program Manager Jean Ronald Jocelyn shares what makes Haitians resilient and if there are any lessons we can adapt for our own lives as we go through this time of uncertainty.
A Letter from Jean Ronald Jocelyn
In Haiti, we have a saying that goes: “As long as we are not beheaded, we still hope to wear hats.” This is HOPE, and it is deeply rooted in our soul. That’s why if you ask even a dying Haitian how he/she is doing, if they can still talk, there is a chance they would respond: “I am hanging in, or I am not bad.” For us Haitians, hope and life go hand in hand, or better yet hope is life. When hope vanishes, so does life. We are a nation of hope, and that’s what keeps us alive, that’s what makes us so resilient in the face of hardships and adversities.
Haitians are never discouraged; Haitians are challengers; Haitians believe in better tomorrows. As a nation, we’ve been through poverty, embargos, political turmoil, humanitarian crises, lockdowns, insecurity, natural disasters, deadly epidemics and many more for decades and decades, but we always hold steady because we know that better days must come.
Our hope is our strength, our weapon to combat discouragement and uncertainty, and drives us to face difficulties head on and to never back down, because our heart and minds are set on better days to come. That’s what shapes our character; that’s what makes us unique as a nation: poor but joyful, deprived but generous, and above all, hopeful in all circumstances.
As we’re used to all sorts of calamities, we realize how strong and resilient we can be in the face of crisis, and how vulnerable we can also be when catastrophes and tragedies beyond our control strike us unexpectedly. But one thing remains essential to overcome those challenges, and it is LOVE – love from and for our family, friends and neighbors; love from and for our country; love from and for the philanthropists; love from and for the WORLD. By love I mean solidarity, mutual support, helping hands, sympathy, and coming together to save lives and give HOPE.
We, the Haitian people, have particularly experienced this love over the past 10 years. In 2010 we were hit by the most devastating and deadliest natural disaster in our history – the January 12 earthquake – and roughly 250,000 of us were killed, 300,000 injured and 2.5 million left homeless. The international community stood as one man to help, and thanks to their solidarity, we survived as a nation. Ten months after the earthquake, the cholera epidemic broke out and killed thousands of our brothers and sisters. Again, our nation survived thanks to our steadfastness and the support from our philanthropic friends abroad. Six years later, Hurricane Mathew struck southern Haiti, destroying around 200,000 homes, causing US $2.8 billion monetary damage and leaving 1.4 million people in need of humanitarian aid. Again, your helping hands saved our nation, and we continued to hope. Today, as we navigate this challenging time, I would like to recognize all our friends and supporters, especially those in the U.S., for all their love and help. Your continuous support keeps us alive to be the resilient nation we are today. I hope reading this will give all of you the hope and love you need to stay strong as COVID-19 also strikes in your country. We are all brothers and sisters in this global family.
Remember, every cloud has a silver lining. Seneca, the Roman Philosopher, said it right: “We become wiser by adversity; prosperity destroys our appreciation of the right.” This unprecedented crisis we are facing now is an opportunity for all of us to reaffirm our humanity and realize how vulnerable we can be. The remedies in such difficult times are LOVE, SOLIDARITY and HOPE, but, above all, hope in a better tomorrow that will come. As you all know, April showers bring May flowers.
Join in with Hope for Haiti
As a way for us to be ‘together alone’ consider joining our second annual virtual Hike for Haiti Challenge from April 17 to May 17. In the rural community of Marre à Coiffe, students climb the equivalent of 200 flights of stairs from the bottom of a mountain just to reach their school at the top. The Hike for Haiti Challenge is an opportunity to virtually hike Marre à Coiffe in solidarity with these resilient children while raising funds to support public health and education initiatives across all twenty-four Hope for Haiti partner schools. During this time of social distancing, we believe the Hike for Haiti Challenge presents an opportunity for our community to join together virtually while physically apart, and offers an outlet to stay active while making a direct impact in children’s lives, as well as the healthcare providers on the front lines keeping Haiti safe from COVID-19.