Three generations of Anise Montiulus's family sit inside her home in Enaf 2, a camp in the Petionville neighborhood of Port au-Prince. (Courtesy: Laura Blank/World Vision)
"The camps are tightly packed together, and some residents say they have dead bodies still among the living. They don’t know what to do with them. The living conditions are difficult and unsanitary, and the smell of the camps can often be overpowering.
Nearly everywhere you walk in Port-au-Prince, people walk around wearing masks, bandannas, and even sweet-smelling toothpaste rubbed under their nostrils to avoid the smell. In some places, where the displaced have no access to medical care, they are treating themselves and each other with dirty shirts, anything they can find to make bandages.”
I wrote those words back in mid-January, just days after a deadly earthquake killed more than 220,000 people in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. I had arrived in Haiti to work as a disaster response communications officer for World Vision about 36 hours after the quake hit. Chaos reigned and fear was written across the faces of the survivors I passed in the streets every day. I stayed for nearly a month before heading back to Boston, and then about six weeks later, in mid-March, I returned for a second time. Would things be any better, I wondered? I was determined to find out.
Silvina Francois, 75, is participating in World Vision's Cash-for Work program at Enaf 2, the camp where she lives with her family in the Petionville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. (Courtesy: Laura Blank/World Vision)
I met Silvina a few days ago in one of the camps here in Port-au-Prince. We sat together inside the dusty, hot, cramped shelter that had become her new home. There were two rusty beds with old blankets on top of them; one bed for her, the other for her grandson. Despite the obvious poverty, Silvina took great care to welcome us when we asked if she’d mind talking with us for a few minutes.
She wiped off and stacked the few dented metal pots she owned, cleaned the old children’s chairs she had next to her bed and motioned for us to sit down.
Almost immediately, sweat poured down my back. The heat was overpowering, and the breeze nearly non-existent. But Silvina smiled, undeterred. For her, perhaps, life was not so different than it had been before. Before January 12, jobs were difficult to come by, food was often little more than rice and beans, and poor health was to be expected as medicine and health care were often expensive. Despite the challenges, at age 75, Silvina had already beaten the odds. In Haiti, the average life expectancy for women is just 63 years.
I asked her if life had improved since she first left her home, destroyed by the earthquake, and came to this camp with five of her family members. She nodded slowly. She had a job now, through World Vision’s cash-for-work program, cleaning the newly-built latrines in the camp. A job like that brought with it a steady income. Although it was a meager and humbling job for a woman her age, Silvina expressed gratitude for the work.
Discussion of her future, and the futures of her children, brought a different reaction. When I asked her what her hope was for herself, her family, and her country, her eyes welled up and she spoke through her tears.
“I hope their lives will be change. I hope that they will live well.” she said simply, adding that she hopes her grandchildren will be able to get a good education someday. She shook her head and lifted her arms toward the sky as she continued. “But I just give them to Jesus; I don’t really know what will happen to them.”
I’ve been asked this question many times – and I’ve often thought it myself – is Haiti any better today then it was three months ago? Will it be better in a year, two years, ten years? What does “better” mean for a country that has struggled so long in poverty?
Today, there are signs of “better” here in Haiti. Things have changed since I recorded my first impressions of the quake in January. The daily aftershocks have almost completely disappeared. The living conditions in the camps are gradually improving as latrines and showers are built, mobile clinics are stocked with supplies, and items like tarps, blankets, and mosquito nets are distributed to families. Street vendors have returned, selling everything from mobile cell phone minutes to fresh fruits and vegetables. The efforts of countless people – both Haitians and internationals – continue to address the immediate needs of the displaced children and families quickly and efficiently.
Young girls gather together to jump rope in the afternoon at Enaf 2, a camp in the Petionville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince (Courtesy: Laura Blank/World Vision)
Many realize that this tragedy also holds opportunity to rebuild Haiti in ways that can help the nation develop beyond where it was before the earthquake. But the question remains, what does “better” mean for Haiti? Maybe it’s not even a question for me to answer. Maybe the question needs to be asked directly to the Haitian community at large.
For Haiti’s leaders, better may mean more opportunities for economic recovery and growth. For World Vision staff in Haiti, better may mean government policies that focus on children and their needs. For people like Silvina, better may mean that the lives of her children and grandchildren will be different than her own life has been.
Discussions swirl as leaders and Haitian citizens try to identify what Haiti needs, and determine who should meet those needs, and how rebuilding should be carried out. Just last week, high-level discussions about Haiti’s future were held at a donor conference in New York City.
True recovery will require the leadership of the Haitian government, support and resources from around the globe and the guidance of development experts from public and private organizations. But most importantly, true recovery can only happen if the voices of Haitians are sought out, acknowledged and heeded.
Editor's Note: Laura Blank is media relations manager at World Vision, a Christian humanitarian charity organization. World Vision works with children, families, and their communities worldwide to tackle the causes of poverty and injustice.
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Editor's Note: In our Big Interview tonight, Anderson talks to David Remnick about his book, 'The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama.' Read an excerpt below.
The Joshua Generation
This is how it began, the telling of a story that changed America.
At midday on March 4, 2007, Barack Obama, the junior senator from Illinois, was scheduled to speak at Brown Chapel, in Selma, Alabama. His campaign for President was barely a month old, and he had come South prepared to confront, for the first time, the Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton. He planned to discuss in public what so many believed would ultimately be his undoing—his race, his youth, his “exotic” background. “Who is Barack Obama?” Barack Hussein Obama? From now until Election Day, his opponents, Democratic and Republican, would ask the question on public platforms, in television and radio commercials, often insinuating a disqualifying otherness about the man: his childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia; his Kenyan father; his Kansas- born, yet cosmopolitan, mother.
Obama’s answer to that question helped form the language and distinctiveness of his campaign. Two years out of the Illinois State Senate and barely free of his college loans, Obama entered the Presidential race with a serious, yet unexceptional, set of center- left policy positions. They were not radically different from Clinton’s, save on the crucial question of the Iraq war. Nor did he possess an impressive résumé of executive experience or legislative accomplishment. But who Obama was, where he came from, how he came to understand himself, and, ultimately, how he managed to project his own temperament and personality as a reflection of American ambitions and hopes would be at the center of his rhetoric and appeal. In addition to his political views, what Obama proposed as the core of his candidacy was a self—a complex, cautious, intelligent, shrewd, young African-American man. He was not a great man yet by any means, but he was the promise of greatness. There, in large measure, was the wellspring of his candidacy, its historical dimension and conceit, and there was no escaping its gall. Obama himself used words like “presumptuous” and “audacious.”
Tonight on 360°, new court documents reveal what prosecutors say Phoebe Prince faced from bullies at a Massachusetts high school before she took her own life. Plus, how Haiti's children are back getting an education after January's earthquake.
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Fareed Zakaria | BIO
CNN Anchor, “Fareed Zakaria – GPS”
The Obama administration is making a mistake by sending Afghan President Hamid Karzai the forceful and repeated message that it's not happy with his regime, says analyst Fareed Zakaria.
He says the United States has been voicing "great frustration and discomfort with Karzai. I just think it's the wrong message. It's self-indulgent. Yes there are lots of problems with Karzai, but we don't have any other options. And it seems like the grown-up thing to do would be to come to terms with it, grin and bear it, and make the best of the relationship."
The Obama administration's concern was heightened last year by questions about the integrity of Karzai's re-election. Recently Karzai said the election irregularities were due to foreigners seeking a "puppet government" in Afghanistan. He also told tribal leaders that the coalition forces, led by the United States, wouldn't attack the Taliban in Kandahar "until you say we can."
The Russian government is considering suspending all adoptions of Russian children by Americans after a 7-year-old boy was put on a plane by himself and returned to Moscow by his adoptive grandmother in Tennessee who said he had violent and psychotic behavior.
Nancy Hansen's daughter, Torry, adopted the boy they named Justin last year. The grandmother says Justin had a "hit list" of people he wanted to hurt. She also says he wanted to "kill her for the house."
The grandmother put Justin on the plane back to Moscow and insists she did not abandon him. She said she followed instructions from a lawyer she found online. Hansen said she also hired a driver in Russia's capital she found online to take Justin to the child protection ministry office.
Russian child protection officials were not happy when Justin showed up unannounced at their office yesterday. The grandmother says there was a lot of yelling on the phone when they called her. She gave Justin a letter he passed along to Russian officials. It in she explains that they want the adoption rights removed because the boy is "violent and has severe psychopathic issues."
The Tennessee family says the orphanage lied to them when they adopted him and told them "he's healthy."
Russian officials insist that's a lie and say when they questioned Justin he said his adoptive mother pulled his hair.
The Hansens also got a phone call from the U.S. Embassy telling them they set off an "international incident."
We'll talk about this case with Dr. Phil McGraw.
We also have new details about the abuse 15-year-old Phoebe Prince suffered at a Massachusetts high school before she killed herself. New documents suggest school officials may have known more about the bullying than we've heard.
Plus, Sarah Palin taking shots at Pres. Obama and Newt Gingrich. We've got the raw politics.
Join us for these stories and much more starting at 10 p.m. ET. See you then.
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Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens will retire, the high court's press office said Friday.
His departure after nearly 35 years on the bench will give President Obama another opportunity to shape the court.
Stevens, who turns 90 on April 20, was not on the bench for a brief public session Monday; the court will hold its next public session in two weeks.
Speculation over Stevens had increased after he confirmed last fall he hired only one law clerk for the next court term, which begins in October. Sitting justices can hire four law clerks, while retired members get only one.
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The New York Times
There is understandable outrage in Russia after an American woman shipped her adopted 7-year-old son back to Moscow yesterday, declaring him to be “mentally unstable.”
The Russian Foreign Minister Sergev Lavrov responded this morning by demanding that all Russia-to-United States adoptions be frozen. That chill will likely affect hundreds of American families; there were 1,600 Russian children adopted in the U.S. last year. My colleague Clifford J. Levy, reporting from Moscow, quoted one family whose adoption plans now appear to be on hold.
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Anchorwoman Katie Couric and Sesame Street Muppets (L-R) Elmo, Jesse and Rosita address an audience and the press before a special tree planting ceremony promoting the launch of the 'When Families Grieve' support group initiative at Madison Square Park on April 8, 2010 in New York City.
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