"All the signs (in Port-au-Prince), the pleas for food and water, were written in English," Tim says. "They wrote with us in mind; they know the help is going to come from outside their own country."
Tim Glenn, USA Advocacy Director, was asked to go to Haiti because of his experience as a journalist, but nothing could have prepared him for what he encountered there. One week after the earthquake, Tim found himself in the middle of one of the most devastating natural disasters of our lifetimes.
"In my 14 years of television reporting, I saw car accidents, shootings, stabbings," he says, "but I've never seen anything like what I saw in Haiti. I don't know how anything could prepare you for that."
Flying into the Dominican Republic (DR), Tim didn't see any effects of the earthquake until he reached the Haiti border. It was there that the magnitude of destruction and ensuing chaos became evident. One of the first things Tim saw was a father carrying his wounded little daughter, pushing alongside thousands of others to get across the border in hope of finding better medical treatment.
As Tim and the Compassion DR staff traveled the hour and a half to Port-au-Prince, they witnessed vehicles and relief trucks stranded along the battered road, which had potholes the size of vehicles even before the earthquake hit.
Arriving at the Compassion office in the heart of Port-au-Prince, Tim was welcomed by about 15 staff members, working diligently despite the personal loss each had suffered. "Nearly every one of them had lost their home, and most had lost loved ones, yet here they were working," marvels Tim. "I was amazed at their resiliency to help others in the midst of their own tragedy."
We Have Lost Everything
For the next five days, he worked with the Haiti staff trying to determine the extent of loss and damage among the church partners. They met with congregations gathered in tent cities on the grounds of their churches some buildings were standing and others weren't, but none were safe to stay in. As they searched for information about Compassion children and their families, it became clear that this would be a very difficult task.
In many cases it's hard to know if people have died or fled. Though the stories were all different, Tim says that everyone they talked to came to the same conclusion: "We have lost everything. Everyone we know has lost everything."
While he saw only gratitude extended toward Americans there, Tim also felt the frustration of people disappointed that the promised food and water was not making it to them.
"All the signs, the pleas for food and water, were written in English," Tim says. "They wrote with us in mind; they know the help is going to come from outside their own country." Beyond immediate life-sustaining supplies, Tim believes the best thing we can offer them is hope.
"Sometimes we have to hold out hope for other people when they can't find it for themselves," he explains. "That's where we come in holding out hope for them until they can find it again for themselves."
Positioned to Help, Positioned to Hope
Tim notes that Compassion is uniquely positioned to offer that kind of hope to this hurting country.
"Because we've been there for 42 years, we have helped raise up a generation of leaders doctors, teachers, architects, engineers who will rebuild this nation. The children in the program today will be instrumental in developing Haiti in the future.
"Because of our investment in these lives, Compassion will play a huge role in the rebuilding and reshaping of Haiti."
Tim's job description states that he is an advocate who will communicate the needs and the potential of children in poverty. It is that potential that gives him hope today.
"There are people and organizations who focus on how horrible this is," he says. "And then there are organizations like Compassion who focus on the future and the possibilities. I am so glad to be a part of an organization like that."
It's not just those traveling to Haiti or serving on the frontlines of the disaster recovery team who have a role to play in this nation's rebuilding. "What we do every day speaking into the lives of children will play a huge role in the future of Haiti," Tim says.
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