LAWRENCE: Students experience Haiti 3 years after quake

Quincy Huang figured that three years after a magnitude 7 earthquake devastated much of Haiti — including its capital, Port-au-Prince — most of the damage would have been repaired.

By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
   Quincy Huang figured that three years after a magnitude 7 earthquake devastated much of Haiti — including its capital, Port-au-Prince — most of the damage would have been repaired.
   But that’s not what the Pennington School freshman and her classmates found during the six days they spent in the island nation in March. They were taking part in a medical mission trip arranged through the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville.
   Quincy discovered that hundreds of people were still living in tents, three years after the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake. Nor did she realize that she and her classmates — and the adults who accompanied them — would see about 1,000 people in the medical clinics they conducted.
   ”I thought the people would be a lot more unhappy, but they were not,” the Princeton resident told about 40 members of the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville at a June 2 forum, which offered the students and their chaperones a chance to report on their trip.
   Ten students from The Pennington School, plus five adult chaperones, visited Haiti March 19-24. The Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville has had a long-standing relationship with the Rev. Luc Deratus of Harmony Ministries, and this is the second year that the private school students have participated in a “working” trip to Haiti.
   Harmony Ministries has established churches and schools in Port-au-Prince, Leogane and LaSalle, and a school in Thoman. The churches and schools in Port-au-Prince and Leogane were destroyed, but the school in Thoman was spared.
   Anthony Hannani, a junior who lives in Allentown, was among the 10 students who went on the trip. He said he had second thoughts about signing up for the trip, and while he had some negative thoughts about the endeavor, he found that he “enjoyed helping.”
   Anthony said he was surprised by how grateful the Haitians were for everything that the students did for them — whether it was handing out medicine or checking on their medical conditions at medical clinics in Thoman and LaSalle, arranged through Harmony Ministries.
   The students painted the classrooms and the church in LaSalle. They toured Harmony Ministries’ church in Port-au-Prince, and distributed toothbrushes and toothpaste to about 500 children who attended worship at the Port-au-Prince church.
   The students also handed out school supplies in LaSalle. Beans and rice — staples of the Haitians’ diet — plus vitamins and toiletries were distributed to those who visited the medical clinics in Thoman and LaSalle.
   For Logan Campbell, who is a senior, and recent graduate Colette King, the trip was their second one to Haiti. They participated in the first trip last year, and commented on the small changes that have taken place in a year’s time.
   Street signs have been installed in Port-au-Prince, and now there are garbage trucks to pick up the refuse, said Logan, who lives in Fairless Hills, Pa. And although many people are still living in tents, some progress has been made in constructing new housing for the Haitians, she said.
   The students and their chaperones visited Harmony Ministries’ facilities in Port-au-Prince, Thoman and LaSalle. Colette, who lives in Lawrence, remarked that the residents of LaSalle — which is the Rev. Deratus’ hometown — are “the poorest of the poor.” It was difficult to convince a 3-year-old child to go to the medical clinic there because the child had never seen a doctor before, she said.
   It was the Haitians’ acceptance of their conditions and their lack of feeling depressed about those conditions that impressed the Rev. Matthew Pigman, who accompanied the students to Haiti. He is the associate pastor for youth, young adult and worship ministries at the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville.
   ”One sense that I had was the realization of humanity,” the Rev. Pigman said. “The people live in such incredibly difficult conditions and they have so little. But they have such dignity, such a sense of dignity. They are not depressed over how little they have.”
   ”I realized how much like them we are. We are all human beings who are trying to make life work. For me, it’s that experience — how much alike we are as human beings. We need each other. That’s what the trip meant to me,” the Rev. Pigman said.