PHOTO CREDIT: James Addis, World Vision
It had been two days since many of the children had any clean water to drink. The smell of dirty diapers filled the air, and as the rusted orange gate in front of the Bresma Orphanage rolled open, the eager eyes of more than one hundred children stared back at us. Their caretakers looked haggard and tired, but managed to smile weakly as we approached the orphanage with relief goods.
We had spent several hours driving around the maze of streets in this Port-au-Prince neighborhood, desperately trying to find the orphanage. With phone lines still down in most parts of the city, the only thing we had to go on was a text message from a woman in the United States sent 24 hours earlier, pleading for us to help these children.
“We are trying to get help for an orphanage in Port-au-Prince,” it read. “150 kids, almost all infants and toddlers, many with diarrhea. No food, no water…Fear losing smallest.”
I was surprised to get a message like this from a stranger, but her plea was heartbreaking and desperate enough that I couldn’t ignore it. The next day, a group of World Vision employees and I gathered food, water, and medical supplies for the children, then journeyed out to their home in Delmas, Port-au-Prince.
The orphanage was small – just four rooms, a courtyard, and a basement – but it was fairly clean. This little home that originally housed more than 60 children now held over 100, having taken in additional children after their orphanage was damaged in the quake.
As we approached the gates, a boy walked up to me almost instantly. He snuggled up to my legs and lifted his arms in the air, looking up in eager anticipation for a hug or someone to hold him. His feet were bare, and he wore a small pair of navy blue shorts and an old yellow t-shirt. I reached down, pulled him up to my hips, and held him as we walked into the orphanage.
Reporter's Note: President Obama has been in office precisely one year. I have written to him every single day since he took the oath and this is no exception.
Tom Foreman | BIO
Dear Mr. President,
Congratulations on completing your first loop around the big Presidency-of-the-United-States motor speedway! When you pick up your lunchbox and walk out of the Oval Office this evening, you will have served a complete 365 days in office, and I’ll bet it feels like the blink of an eye.
Well, no, that’s probably not right. I suppose it’s more like when you are really, really tired and you think you just blinked your eyes, but you actually fell asleep briefly, and then you start dreaming about being chased by wildebeests, then you lurch awake, and it still feels like you’ve been run down and trampled. Sort of like that.
Anyway, it’s been quite a year. I have asked myself many times how my life has changed since you took office, and as best I can make out, it really hasn’t. I’ve had to work later, of course. But that’s not really because of what you’ve done, it’s just because you’ve done “things,” and I’ve had to cover them. Beyond that, however, I’m not sure if anything is really different. Of course, your Republican pals say we’ll all find out how much has changed when we have to start paying for it all. Maybe. I’ve noticed that each party has a way of predicting catastrophe when they are not in power, and it rarely actually turns out as badly as their electoral Ouija boards suggest.
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Special to CNN
We are all sick at heart to witness the unfathomable suffering in Haiti. Why do bad things happen to innocent people? Why Haiti, again? Even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said recently, "It is biblical, the tragedy that continues to stalk Haiti and the Haitian people."
How we make meaning of this suffering will be crucial to how we respond, in the long term, as a global community.
My Haitian in-laws, visiting from Boston, Massachusetts, to take some comfort with us, announced that the verse of the day on their favorite Bible Web site is from Revelation 16:18. "And there were voices and thunders and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as has not been since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake and so great."
The word "earthquake" appears sixteen times in the Bible. It was clear to them - and many other Christians - that the earthquake was part of God's plan. Why God ordains such disasters is a mystery that is not ours to question. It is only our job to have faith.
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AC360° Associate Producer
One week ago today, the 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti. The massive effort to distribute aid continues, even amid reports of looting and questions about who is in charge.
Frustrations have mounted as hundreds of Haitians broke into a damaged store in downtown Port-au-Prince yesterday, stripping it clean and then moving on to another store nearby.
I can’t stop thinking about one of John Steinbeck’s poignant lines – the “line between hunger and anger is a thin line.”
The Haitian police – made up of about 9,000 troops – faces a growing challenge in trying to uphold security and peace. The U.N. has 9,000 peacekeepers in Haiti and the Security Council is expected to approve a request for 3,500 additional troops today. Right now, the U.S. has 1,400 military forces in the country and that number is expected to more or less quadruple in the near future. This morning, a large number of U.S. marines arrived at the presidential palace this morning.
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"Do you need anything from the pharmacy?" my wife asked. "I have to go early tomorrow to pick up a case of toothpaste."
"Why a case?"
"They are having a drive for Haiti at Bea's school. They are asking all the parents to drop toothpaste, blankets, and other emergency goods to be sent to the earthquake victims."
Maybe your church or your school has asked you to do something similar? If so, pause to think for a moment how crazy it is. You drive to the store. You buy individual items at retail prices. You deliver them to the church or school, where they will be boxed, dispatched to a depot, loaded into a container, trucked to a port, loaded onto a boat, shipped to Haiti, unloaded, sorted, and somehow distributed who knows how many weeks from now. And then - what if it turns out they don't need the toothpaste?
The day before Christmas, 2004, a terrible tsunami struck the coastline of Indian Ocean countries. The disaster killed perhaps 225,000 people and destroyed millions of homes. International aid surged into the regions: billions of dollars pledged by governments and donated by individuals.