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Michaelle Dorleans was minutes away from stepping on a U.S. Air Force transport to be evacuated to the United States with her children and mother the day after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010. Instead, she stayed.
Why would she remain in the country when the situation remains tenuous, when food, water, medical care, and housing remain scarce? When people are being forced to sleep outside for fear of continuing aftershocks? When looting and violence has been commonplace in some areas?
“I realized that I will be more useful here,” she says simply. “So, I decided to stay in Haiti.”
Dorleans, deputy director of Banque de la République d'Haiti in Port-au-Prince, is one of three Haitian Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) members reached via e-mail on Jan. 20, the same day a 5.9 aftershock rocked the tiny Caribbean country just a few hundred miles south of the United States.
They’re alive, though they’ve lost family, friends, colleagues, homes and personal possessions. But these Haitian SHRM members say they are thankful they have survived, and they ask for continued prayers.
Here are their stories, in their own words.
‘I Decided to Stay in Haiti.’
“At the Central Bank, the governor ordered to open the cash department,” Dorleans says. “This is a good decision because financial activities cannot stop—even when the situation is like hell. So I am back to work since Monday.
“We have created a small group of people to manage the situation. We worked on the bank sidewalks and the parking lot because we can't get inside the building at the moment (until we get approval from experts). The human resources department has been destroyed; the roof has collapsed. Hopefully we will be able to retrieve the files.
“We have lost more than a dozen of our staff members. Others are wounded; some of them have lost their dependents (spouses and children). This is a big mess. The HR department is going to be loaded with different employee cases or cris[e]s to solve: stress, despair, lack of motivation.
“This is going to be hard to handle, but it's our job to help employees and to have them engaged in their job as soon as possible. I predict that job performance will be low for at least six months. So, we'll see.
“The international aid has arrived here. Hopefully we'll get back on our feet soon. I'm still scared because this morning’s (around 6 a.m.) [Jan. 20] aftershock was strong … and lasted about 5 to 10 seconds.
“I'll keep you posted. I'm hanging in there.”
‘Keep Us in Your Prayers.’
Fabiola Pascal Thomas, who works for a tech company in Port-au-Prince, reports that she has her family “by my side.” She has lost “some close friends, but [we’re] hanging in there so far and praying so that this chaotic situation comes to an end allowing us to try to get back to normal, which is not going to be an easy thing.
“The city of Port-au-Prince is devastated. And we need all the help possible to help the Haitian nation rebuild the country, and, above of all, rebuild their [lives]. Best regards and keep us in your prayers.”
—Fabiola Pascal Thomas
‘Living a Nightmare’
Newlywed Marie-Lyne J. Thomas, who works as an employment officer in Port-au-Prince, is nine weeks pregnant. She and her family survived the earthquake, but “we lost four houses and my grand aunt who was suffering with Alzheimer’s passed away. She’s still under our house because we don’t have money to pay for removing her from under the rubble.
“Now I’m with my husband’s family in an area, which is still safe (but) God only knows for how much time—two houses collapsed this morning (Jan. 20) in our neighborhood. But I am very stressed.
“I'm just married and nine weeks pregnant so you can imagine that I'm living a nightmare.
“Sincerely it is very difficult for me to think about HR now and I'm seriously wondering if I'll still [have] a job in the next months. I'm working for the country's largest financial group as an employment officer but I'm not sure that my position is critical at the time. At my bank we [have] lost a lot of employees and most of our buildings are in a very bad condition.
“I'm very grateful to you for inquiring of my well being. God bless you all.”
—Marie-Lyne J. Thomas
How to Help
Tens of thousands of people have donated millions of dollars online and via text messaging to Haiti, and relief agencies are continuing to accept donations. Food, water, medical supplies and heavy equipment are still being sent.
SHRM is working with America’s Charities to provide SHRM members and others interested in helping in a reliable, secure way to donate to disaster relief organizations on the ground in Haiti and provide assistance to those in need.
The Clinton Bush Fund, helmed by former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush is accepting donations via the web.
The American Red Cross reports via Twitter that “so far, 100 tons of Red Cross aid has arrived in Haiti. Planes and trucks carrying Red Cross humanitarian assistance arrive every day.” The Red Cross has reportedly raised more than $24 million via text messaging for Haiti. A $10 donation via text message can provide a family with two water cans to store clean drinking water, a blanket, or other supplies to give people the ability to cook for their families, the Red Cross says. You can view a slideshow of the humanitarian group’s efforts by clicking here.
A list of more relief agencies can be found on The Washington Post.
Lastly, on Friday, Jan. 22, at 8 p.m. EST, George Clooney, Wyclef Jean and Anderson Cooper host the two-hour “Hope for Haiti” benefit in conjunction with MTV. It will be simulcast on more than a dozen networks, including ABC, NBC, BET, CBS, HBO, VH1, CMT, E!, and CNN.
Musicians and celebrities lined up to perform and appear from London, New York and Los Angeles include Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Sting, Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake, Bono, Dave Mathews, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Sheryl Crow and a host of others. Additional celebrities will be manning the phones with Cooper reporting live from Haiti during the event.
According to MTV, “all donations raised during the telethon will directly benefit Oxfam America, Partners in Health, Red Cross, UNICEF and Jean's Yele Haiti Foundation. Social networking sites Facebook and MySpace have signed on as official social media partners to help steer viewers to the telethon and drive donations.”
On Jan. 21, 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill allowing people who donate to Haitian relief efforts permission to write off those donations on their 2009 tax returns.
Aliah D. Wright is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
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