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Haiti blog: We will always remember you

Haiti blog: We will always remember you

Sophie Preisch reflects on an opportunity for children to remember those lost in the earthquake. Many lost parents, family and friends, and the event was an emotional but essential one.

On a white sheet children wrote their thoughts into three columns: one for 12 January 2010, one for 12 January 2011 and one for 12 january 2020. "Everyone was affected" reads the first column, or "We will never forget all those who died". One boy vented his anger about what happened with words that could be translated as "Doomsday for Haiti". One boy recalls, that he missed out on his date for the earthquake. The "today"-column is filled with aspiration and plans, it says things like: "We are working hard today, but we'll be working even harder tomorrow", "We have to unite our forces to make Haiti move on", "We need to get our people out of the tents".

Remembering Haiti
This poster with the handprints of the children reads 'Together we are strong!'

In the morning, schoolchildren from the SOS School get together to celebrate mass, remembering all those who lost their lives in the earthquake. Hundreds of children sit on wooden benches or plastic chairs in the schoolyard. They are singing, praying and listening. Many of them lost their homes a year ago, many even lost their parents, siblings or other loved ones. The earthquake and all its consequences has become Haiti's reality - but still it seems so far away.

After mass and a short performance by the choir of children and youngsters from the children's village, a letter from Helmut Kutin, the President of SOS Children‘s Villages, is read out loud by the interim national director Dionisio Pereira. To staff and especially mothers this is an important moment: he sends his appreciation for their commitment and the strength they showed over the past year. The earthquake - as one of the children also wrote on the poster - has affected everyone in Haiti. Those who survived and who were here right after the quake to help others have also had traumatic experiences and had to cope with it. 

Remembering Haiti 2
A mass is held to remember the victims of the earthquake

Prior to the celebrations the children had written their wishes and sorrows on little pieces of paper, and a bonfire is lit to transform these messages and help them ascend to heaven to be heard by higher powers. A long line of students walks solemnly past the fire, throwing in their wishes one by one. Some children are clearly enjoying the special event, others seem more pensive and quiet.

In the afternoon, when the children have gone, the village grows quiet once more. Everyone is reflecting on what happened and how to go on. Sometimes it's hard to understand why people are still forced to live in tents and why there are still so many ruins. What is it that makes everything so slow here? What have we learned, what has Haiti learned? What will it take for this country to rediscover its own strength?

For many children this date might be an unpleasant memory, but it's probably even harder to really reflect on what happened. The event has brought them together, has given them a moment to remember. And - after all - it's hope that unifies Haiti. As though to illustrate just that point, the 2020-column of the poster says things like: "Children in the future will be born into a better Haiti", "We won't give up". The boy who missed his chance at a date with a special girl last year simply writes "In 2020, my dates will work out".

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