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Haiti: One year later

Haitians across The Bahamas will bow their heads in prayer today as they commemorate the one year anniversary of the colossal earthquake that struck Haiti and killed over 200,000 people.

On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude temblor destroyed the country’s Presidential Palace and much of its infrastructure, spawned the creation of tent cities, contributed to the spread of cholera and left an estimated one million Haitians homeless, hopeless and destitute.

“We are asking our people to have[today]as a day of fast and of thanksgiving,”said Victory Chapel Senior Pastor Antoine St. Louis, whose church spearheaded a fundraising effort for the survivors.

“All the churches will be open for prayer service tonight and there will be big service at St. Francis Xavier(Roman Catholic)Cathedral.[Today]we are encouraging people to pray. Even as we celebrate the lives of those who have gone, we give God thanks for the many who are still alive.”

Approximately 220,000 people died as a result of the earthquake. Thousands more are still in need of medical attention.

“We are still asking people not to forget Haiti because even now-one year later Haiti is still in dire need of many necessary things,”St. Louis continued.

“Our hope is that things will be better because each day things are getting worse and worse. We just have to continue to pray and trust God that they have a stable government and that God in his mercy, spares them any natural disasters this year and that there’s no violence in the country. That’s all we can hope for,”he said.

Haitians will not be the only ones remembering the devastation.

Bahamian earthquake survivor and Director of Civil Aviation Captain Patrick Rolle said the tiny scar on his forehead is a constant reminder of the tragedy.

He was one of two Bahamians who made it out of the disaster alive. His only injury was the gash on his head.

Rolle said the earthquake is something he will never forget.

“There’s this constant awareness that I actually got out of there,”he said.”I remember looking at some pictures from the hotel that I stayed at. And I remember being in the room where I stayed where I saw the whole room collapsing around me. And every now and then there’s this little flash. I start getting all these thoughts of all the buildings collapsing around me but somehow I’m alive… It never really goes away,” he said referring to his memories of the quake.

Rolle, who was in Haiti last year attending an International Civil Aviation Organization(ICAO)Safety and Security Conference, said he survived after he ran out through a sliding door of his hotel and jumped a wall onto the roof of a restaurant.

Looking back, Rolle said he can only thank God.

“I’m happy that I’m out of the situation and there’s some regret that there’s so many people who still don’t know where their family members are. I think about the six friends that I lost down there and their families and their young kids, and I wonder at times why I got out and so many perished. But I still have to move on because life goes on, I still have responsibilities that keep propelling me forward.”

And just as he has had to move on, the Haitian survivors have had to do the same.

Last year the Haitian government attempted to regroup and reform Haiti’s fractured society, but in the end encountered great difficulties.

In November and December Haitians clashed with their local law enforcement officers, UN peacekeepers and each other in the midst of elections.

But it was the initial disaster-the earthquake-that had the deepest impact on the world. In the wake of the quake people across the world dug into their wallets and donated to various funds destined for the ravaged Caribbean nation. But in spite of the best efforts of many, some believe that the impoverished country is in worse shape than it was in the days and months immediately following the disaster.

Critics question where the relief money has gone as little has changed since last year.

Here in The Bahamas, Rotary Club International Co-ordinator between Haiti and The Bahamas as well as other countries around the world Barry Rassin, said he knows that the money his club raised here went to good use.

According to Rassin, so far$558,000 was raised by Rotary Club Bahamas. He said most of that money went towards immediate relief efforts, including search and rescue and medicine.

Aside from that, Rassin said the Rotary Club has 53 ongoing projects including plans to rebuild schools and houses, and help dismembered persons get prosthetic limbs.

“The Rotary tries to make the world a better place,”Rassin said. That’s what we believe in.”

“Haiti is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. First they got hit by the earthquake, then they got hit by the cholera outbreak then they got hit by Hurricane Tomas last year and now they are in the middle of an election issue. It’s very difficult and they need the world to step up and help the best they can.”

Rassin said the Rotary Club has no intention of giving up their efforts anytime soon.

“We will stay with Haiti as long as we have dollars to help us get things done,” he added.

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