Thoughts on the disaster in Haiti

By: Mike Breunling
By: Mike Breunling
As our recent news coverage has shown there is quite a local connection in regard to the devastating earthquake in Haiti.
Whether it is the students from Haiti enrolled in our local colleges
and universities, or the people from north-central Wisconsin who are involved in relief and mission groups in-country, many people in this area have been impacted by the events of the last few days.

Over the past few years my wife and I have become involved not only with students from Haiti, but those from other central American countries enrolled in the International Program at North Central Technical College. One of the most important things I have learned from this experience is that these students are just like us Americans--they all want to make a better life for themselves, and are willing to sacrifice a lot to attain it. Many of them know no english when they arrive here for their two year program, and the terms of the arrangement do not allow them to return home until the program is completed.

Upon graduation, the students return home. Some obtain work. Those from Haiti usually have a difficult time finding quality employment. For many, family and friends are the lifeline that helps them to keep going.

In good times life is tough in Haiti. The nation has a very poor standard of living, with high unemployment. Is the general population to blame? Based on my experience I would say no. Actually, there is a real problem with the government, which over the years has been filled with corruption and selfishness, looting the national coffers of much of the foreign (including U.S.) aid that could otherwise have helped to develop a better and more thriving economy.

Then comes an earthquake of historic magnitude, of a strength not experienced for the past two hundred years. The destruction is massive, the loss of life incredible. For most, a situation in which the future was already bleak is now practically hopeless. Career, progress, growth. All is just about lost.

Here is an email I received from one of the former Haitian students at NTC, who had completed his education in 2009 and returned to Haiti in July:
"To All:
God is GREAT. I'm delevering this message to all my friends who I know for sure have been asking what is going on with me. I want to tell you that I'm fine because I left Port-au-Price to have Christmas with my grandmother which is why I am alive now. My house where I had all my important papers has been destroyed, but the greatest thing is my life so, I don't want to be worried too much. My family at the capital is ok because they were not in the house at that time of the earthquake, but I can tell you this is an awful situation. Please lift Haiti, my family
and me in your prayers because there is no life here anymore in Haiti--there are no banks functioning, no electricity. In the coming days there will be more people dying from hunger, stress, and bad news because everyone will realize that someone important is dead. In my case many of my good friends have died. This is so sad, oh my God. So, if God does not say anything soon for the people who are still alive, I think Haiti is going to be a HELL. I'm going stay in touch with you for further notice. I know I won't lose my faith because God has a plan for everybody and he loves everyone. GOD BLESS HAITI AND ALL ITS
PEOPLE."

This is just one of many, many stories of agony and pain that have now quickly become the new reality of life in Haiti.

We must do what we can to help.

Those who are in this srtruggle for the long haul have to face a difficult fact. Even if money, food, and other resources are provided, what kind of a future will there be in Haiti? If the political environment of the past returns, unfortunately the answer will be not much of one.

So the best way we can help is to do these three things:
---Pray without ceasing.
---Donate money to relief organizations that buy their own resources,
and put their own people on the ground, bypassing the potential corruption of government. Some of these include, the American Red Cross, Samaritan's Purse, Mercy Corps, Doctors Without Borders, the Haitian Health Foundation, and Solid Rock Missions.
---It is important that going forward we do what we can to ask our elected officials to demand more of the Haitian government.

Finally, as a result of my experiences the past few years, I encourage you to become involved with the International Student program at NTC. Even if you can't be a host for a student, there are many opportunities for involvement. I guarantee that if you do your outlook on life, and of the other nations in our own hemisphere will be forever changed.

A concert for the benefit of the Haitian relief effort will be held at 6 pm on Sunday, January 31 at the Grand Theater in Wausau. Admission is free, with a free-will offering collected. Performing will be Bryan Sirchio, from Madison. (more information about Bryan and his music can be found at the website www.sirchio.com). The event is sponsored by United Churches of Christ in the Wausau area.
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