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You'll find the HDP Offices nestling in the woods just off the A281 outside of Guildford, Surrey.

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Haiti Development Project (HDP) focuses on practical solutions
to the social, economic and developmental emergencies in Haiti.

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  • Sep

    One Volunteer's Memories

    Advisory Board member Katherine Vizcaino spoke to Melissa Padron, who volunteered in Haiti just four days after the January 12th earthquake, about what she saw, and her thoughts on Haiti’s future… M.PADRON: We went on our own, it was arranged by a friend of mine who is still doing charter trips there taking supplies. We flew into Dominican Republic and rented a truck in order to get across the border. I remember it seemed like we traveled across mountains forever, stumbling across some small villages en route. The villages looked as if they had been frozen in time 100 years ago, there was no running water, and we witnessed a lot of poverty. But as sad as we were to see that, never will I experience something like what I saw when we got to Port au Prince. It looked like the Apocalypse had happened there. The minute they realized we were foreigners, hundreds of people rallied around our truck. We had canned foods, water, non-perishables, baby formula, diapers, basic medical things like band-aids, gauze, aspirin, mercurochrome, alcohol. We did not have IV’s, or solutions, or needles. We thought our supplies would last at least 4 days and were hoping for a week, but within 5 hours we had given out everything we had. There were some supplies there in the city, but because of various agency protocols we did not have access and we did not have water, nothing. It was so frustrating. We went to other aid agencies and basically begged them for supplies for the children, and thanks to some generous souls we managed to get some food and then split it up between the people, just so they had something. Once our own supplies were gone, and while we were still searching for other sources of aid, we started walking out in the city to see where we could help but the sight of so many people in need was incredibly painful for us all. To see so many people with wounds, seemingly lost or dazed, just walking around looking for help was tremendously disheartening. Realizing later that so many of them had lost their whole families in the earthquake, yet they were still trying to carry on began to open our eyes to their incredible strength. Every so often they would pull someone out of the rubble which was joyous, but there were so many aftershocks you never knew what was going to happen. We spent the rest of our days there after our supplies had run out splitting our time between a retirement home that had collapsed, and a tent that was housing orphaned children. Seeing the older people and the children was hard, some of them had lost limbs and were catatonic, and all of them needed a warm touch and some human compassion. I remember a girl that had lost her whole family as well as her leg, and all she kept saying was how she was blessed to be alive, while speaking with me. It pained me to know I could not take her away from the catastrophe, I felt I could not do anything for her or the others like her, we felt so futile, and all they needed we did not have. There seemed to be phases. The first couple of days everyone was in shock. Then it was “oh my God, we are happy to be alive”. Then it’s “oh no, everything is ruined! Before we had little, and now we have nothing...” When I went the community seemed to be in that 3rd phase. The older people and the children were the most resilient, their spirit was strongest. The girl that had lost everyone in her family and felt grateful to be alive was 14. She had run out of the house, the only one that left the house before the house collapsed, and she knew all her family was dead; she witnessed it. Yet when she cried while she was speaking with me, she was crying tears of joy. She felt fortunate to still have a chance to move forward – she was a survivor. And though in the first few days after the earthquake, the kids were in shock, after a few more days you saw kids that had lost one arm learning to play with the other, they had bonded with each other and with the adults around them, and you would see them smile and try to get on with it. The spirit they had was incredible. I wonder about those children now. These kids wanted to go forward, they were not locked into the past like we as adults are. They just wanted to return to normal life. They started to build makeshift schools while I was there and the first organized thing I saw them do en masse was to go to church on Sunday. The church was in ruins, so they held makeshift masses in the street. It gave them a sense of community and hope and every night you would hear the community singing happy hymns, thanking God that they were alive. It was an awesome, incredible thing, to see the indomitability of the human spirit. K.VIZCAINO: The thing that stands out about this most to me is the fact that despite the past, one cannot help but be enthused about the future. The children of Haiti are strong, they are resilient, they are survivors, and they are ready to improve the lot of their nation. All they need is the chance to shine. Education is the most powerful tool that is available to us, and we have the ability to make an absolute difference in these children’s’ lives by offering them the opportunity to access that tool.