Why we need more headlines of hope from Haiti alongside updates on disasters

The Compassion centre rebuilt in 2016 with para-seismic standards to stand up to future storms and earthquakes. While other buildings around it collapsed in the 14 August 2021 earthquake, the Compassion centre is still standing.(Photo: Compassion International)

Over the last few weeks, we've watched heartbreaking scenes coming out of Afghanistan. The images of desperate families fleeing the advance and then occupation of the Taliban. Most recently we looked on with horror as suicide bombers took the lives of over 100 people in Kabul. We follow a God of justice and compassion and feel His pain in the suffering we see.

The situation has understandably dominated the headlines. But as Afghanistan drives the news agenda, we risk forgetting about the rest of the world – stories of both suffering and overcoming that need to be told.

As the Vice President of the Latin America and Caribbean Region for the international child development charity Compassion, I have seen how the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti on 14 August has come and gone from the news cycle — faster than most people had time to register it had even taken place.

It's not that we want Haiti in the news headlines because of another disaster, but it's often critical in getting the necessary response and support we need as a nation. We're tired of Haiti being portrayed as a place of poverty and disaster. Instead, we would love to see headlines that bring to light even the smallest efforts of progress that will slowly help turn the country around. There are so many positive stories to share - stories of the Haitian people's resilience in the face of a crisis, and how the church is growing stronger and more responsive. We choose to keep moving, to fight, to find hope and help our fellow neighbours.

Valuable lessons have been learnt from the events of the 2010 earthquake that struck our capital, and my hometown, Port-au-Prince. Since then, foundations have been laid for Haiti to build a more sustainable future for its people.

It is usually the buildings, rather than the tremors and storms themselves, that take people's lives. People are afraid to go home; afraid to cook in their kitchens; afraid to sleep in their beds – that trauma can have a real impact on both the children and their caregivers.

I remember after the 2010 earthquake, our teams met with local church leaders to assess the situation, as they've done now. When they visited those impacted, one little girl raised her hand and said, "Please pray for my mom that she would stop crying." For a child to see someone they love and count on overwhelmed and distressed, it is just as traumatic for them as when the earth shook.

After the earthquake of 2010 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016, one of the most important things Compassion has done for the community is work with our local church partners to re-build homes, using para-seismic standards to stand up to future storms and earthquakes.

Edouard Lassegue(Photo: Compassion International)

When visiting a church in Torbeck, after Hurricane Matthew, we saw that a school had collapsed. We went in and rebuilt the classrooms which are now used for the children to gather as part of their Compassion development activities. In 2010, we relied on foreign engineers and technicians to build the schools that had been destroyed, because we had a hard time finding that competency in the country; but in 2016, we used the Haitian engineers who had learned from the expatriate engineers.

Fast forward five years; after this most recent earthquake, that same school building still stands. However, the church building we did not touch has crumbled. Buildings all around the school have disappeared. Those classrooms we rebuilt are still standing, and we praise God for the work that we were able to do.

Even so, we grieve for those we have lost. The earthquake took over 2,200 precious lives – each one a beloved child, grandchild, sibling, parent, grandparent or friend. Among them were 18 children supported by Compassion — their young lives, full of potential, cut devastatingly short; as well as another 70 lives of caregivers and siblings of children and families we work with through our local Haitian church partners.

Trauma and loss have been experienced by so many, yet I am always in awe of the resilience of our people.

Together we can make a difference and together we are indeed making a difference. To represent the people who are in pain and suffering and to do it in a way that is effective. We have the foundations for change, but we need support. I strongly believe that the church worldwide has an opportunity to come alongside fellow believers to bring about effective change and support. Helping with the immediate needs of children and families but also building on the foundations that have already been laid to protect families for the future.

Amid the despair around us, as Christians, we can be the arms and the feet of Jesus, we can make a difference in the lives of many. This, for me, is what gives me hope in the midst of tragedy.

To find out more how you can support Compassion's efforts to re-build for the future of the children and families impacted by the earthquake, go to compassionuk.org

Edouard Lassegue is the Vice President of the Latin America and Caribbean Region of Compassion International. He was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and previously served as Compassion's Haiti country director for nearly 11 years.