– Holds out hand of help and friendship
The definition of tragedy is relative and subject to degrees of interpretation; but the devastation wrought by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake which struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, and laid waste the capital city, Port-au- Prince, and an estimated 150,00 lives, is a painful example of human tragedy.
Apart from the dead and injured, thousands of Haitians were left homeless and hungry; and while hunger is not an unknown facet of the Haitian existence, the dimension of suffering being currently endured by victims of the earthquake is unquantifiable and immeasurable, and the world has taken cognizance and has reached out with great generosity to attempt to restore some degree of comfortability to the victims of the Haitian earthquake.
Guyana’s President, Bharrat Jagdeo, immediately pledged US$1 million and other help in kind, which was quantified on scale as the most generous donation to that country.
At the Boardroom of the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security yesterday, Minister Priya Manickchand reached out with comfort and offers of assistance to Guyanese who lived in Haiti and their families who have sought refuge in Guyana at the invitation of the Guyanese Government.
The Minister informed that, so far, Guyana has sent donations of in excess of $110 million, most of which has been routed to the farming community so that, in the not-too-distant future, the country’s food production capacity would be greatly enhanced, and its food security consequently assured.
Minister Manickchand explained that Guyana wanted its donations to directly benefit the people of Haiti instead of lying unused in a fund, and that is why it directed its donation to boost agricultural production. She also made mention of in kind contributions, such as foodstuff, clothing, and other practical items, which the Guyanese people generously donated to the people of the Republic of Haiti.
She expressed her great pleasure at Guyana’s being able to help its Haitian neighbours. She told the two families in her office, “I am really glad that we could bring you home, and that we could take you out of that environment and offer our land and our home to you.”
Present were Trevor Ali, 13, and his six-year-old brother Daraene, who are currently living with their grandparents; and Guyanese marine captain, Leonard Fraser, whose Haitian spouse, Jocelyn Pelemi, and their seven-year-old daughter, Alicia Fraser, were sleeping in the streets until they came to Guyana some three weeks earlier.
Trevor and Daraene, who lived in Miragoane, far away from Haiti’s devastated capital city, were sent by their parents to live in Guyana with their paternal grandmother, Mrs. Bibi Ameena Ali, because there are constant tremors and aftershocks that continually rock their home, making their parents fearful of another earthquake that could hurt their children.
Mrs. Ali says that the officials from the Foreign Affairs Ministry were extremely kind and helpful.
Trevor and Daraene have already been placed in schools, with Trevor attending Central High School, while his little brother goes to Smith’s Memorial Primary School. Raymond Ali and his wife met and married while they were both going to college in Miami and their first-born son, Raymond (Jnr.), was sent to Guyana when he was two years old to live with his grandmother. He is now seventeen.
The two younger boys are very good looking and mannerly. They have an advantage in that they both speak English, although their mother tongue is French, and their daily language is French-Creole, so they had no difficulty in fitting into the school system in Guyana, although they both long to return to their home in Haiti, their school, their friends, and their parents.
The two boys, who had spent a lengthy holiday during Christmas of 2008 with their grandmother, whom they obviously adore, say that they like Guyana very much, but that Haiti is their home and they want to return as soon as possible.
Describing the horrendous experience, Trevor said that although they lived so far away from Port-au-Prince, their house rocked like a toy and they were very afraid. Fissures are still appearing in the ground and their house still rocks periodically, so they are afraid to stay indoors and had to sleep outside under tents with their parents before they were sent to Guyana.
Leonard Fraser says that Guyana is like a paradise with discontented people who do not appreciate nor utilize the opportunities provided them in their country. He described Haitians as a people who “make much out of very little.”
He said that Haiti has many problems, much more pronounced than Guyana, and cited its crime problems, which are appreciating considerably because Haiti’s economy cannot sustain a large or well-equipped police force, nor drive dynamic developmental imperatives because of impoverished economic dynamics.
Fraser said that he was detained in Guyana after travelling home in December to renew his passport, when he heard of the horrific earthquake that had demolished Haiti’s capital city and its environs. Knowing that his wife and little daughter were living a mere three miles away from the city, he made frantic attempts to contact her, to no avail, until Ambassador Beverley Harper intervened and set events in train whereby they were eventually traced – alive and well, but homeless and hungry.
The Guyana Government immediately set systems in place and Jocelyn and Alicia were finally reunited with their husband and father three weeks ago. They are currently staying at the home of Fraser’s sister. Minister Manickchand instructed that Alicia be placed in a school, while she offered other assistance to the little girl’s parents.
Jocelyn, who was working with Global Fund as an HIV/AIDS counsellor before her displacement of job, home and country, expressed her appreciation from the heart for the help that was given to her country and her family. The Minister, who was visibly touched by her words, assured her that Guyana is Haiti’s neighbour and was very glad to help, and that the help will continue.
Fraser told Minister Manickchand that there are many more Guyanese/Haitian families left stranded and needing help in Haiti, but the Minister said that Guyana can’t just pluck persons and bring them to Guyana, because it has to act in accordance with Haiti’s rules and laws, and Haiti says it needs travel documents. The Minister said that Guyana has offered to have documents issued in Jamaica and other territories but Haiti declined on the basis that they want to be responsible for documentation for their own nationals. Minister Manickchand said that Guyana has to comply with and respect Haiti’s laws because Haiti is a sovereign nation.
She explained that Guyana does not want to behave like some first-world countries that offer developing countries assistance and then in return dictate its governing policies.
Assuring that once the Haitian rules and laws pertinent to documentation are satisfied, other families would also be brought to Guyana through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with relevant assistance for settling in this country provided by adjunctive administrative governmental bodies.
– Holds out hand of help and friendship