Haitians Help Their Own

Perspectives on Haiti: Looking at the Past to Understand the Present

Por Dialogo
abril 01, 2010

WOW! Finally! Bethye C.M., Ginette C. and I have been wondering where we could find our Beloved Marie-Lourdes. And by making a Google Search under Marie Lourdes Cyprien's name, we found this article. We have felt so sorry for our Friend. And it's a joy to see a smile on her face despite this situation. Cyp, we love you, we can't stop thinking about you. We want to see you as soon as possible, and most of all, we pray every day for you. Be assured that we do not forget you. You are in our hearts every minute of our life. Love and Kisses. Joelle

Dr. Marie Cyprien was more than 1,200 kilometers away from her sister, Marie Lourdes Borno, when the earthquake struck Haiti. While Cyprien worked as an anesthesiologist in Orlando, Fla., her sister was in Haiti. After the earthquake hit, Borno was trapped under rubble outside Haiti’s Ministry of Education building, where she worked. She survived, but both her hands were crushed.
Like so many other Haitian doctors and nurses who live abroad, the 43-year-old Cyprien, who left her hometown of Delmas at age 16, showed no hesitation in going back to assist victims of the earthquake. She worked with French medical staff to help build a makeshift hospital and conduct surgeries without basic medical resources such as oxygen equipment.
Five days after the quake, Cyprien reunited with her sister, 56. Unable to get immediate treatment, Borno’s hands became infected with gangrene and had to be amputated. Cyprien helped her sister by administering anesthesia. “If I did not attend her during that time, she would have died of gangrene,” said the doctor, who took her sister to Orlando for further treatment. Weeks later, Borno returned to Haiti hoping to resume her job as assistant director of the education ministry.
Emigrant Haitians show solidarity
Haiti has a population of more than 9 million, with about 3 million more nationals living outside the country, mainly in the United States, France, the Dominican Republic and the Antilles islands, Agence France-Presse reported. Eighty-three percent of the country’s professionals live abroad, according to Raymond Joseph, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States. After the earthquake, the Haitian community living outside the country saw an urgent need to become involved in reconstruction efforts. “The Haitian people are very resilient; one lesson they have learned is to stick together,” Joseph said.
Since the catastrophe, the Ministry of Haitians Living Abroad has worked to funnel aid from families outside the country to relatives back home, many of whom survive on remittances. Created in 1995, the ministry encourages participation of Haitian nationals abroad in the country’s development efforts. Edwin Paraison, head of the ministry, estimated about 1,400 Haitian professionals traveled to Haiti during the first six weeks after the quake to provide relief, according to The New York Times. This includes medical professionals and engineers. The Haitian-American Association of Engineers and Scientists spent days inspecting bridges and building sanitation systems for displacement camps.
Meanwhile, the nonprofit Haitian League offered medical assistance, food, transportation and counseling from its o#ces in Haiti, the organization’s President Bernier Lauredan said. He thinks the role of the Haitian community abroad is crucial for the immediate recovery of Haiti. “They know the culture. They know the country. This is still their country and [there] could be no reconstruction done without [them].”
Lauredan, who left Haiti almost 50 years ago at age 16, traveled from his home in New Jersey to the island twice during the first month after the quake.
In 2003, he helped establish the Haitian League, which gathers Haitian descendants throughout 20 cities in the United States and Canada.
The Haitian League and 16 other organizations took part in the Haitian Diaspora Forum held by the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C., in March 2010. The conference was held to engage émigrés in Haiti’s government efforts to rebuild. One of the recommendations from the forum was to ensure that firms contracted in Haiti hire Haitian workers to “reverse the brain drain by expanding human capital that will, in turn, attract foreign investment.”
“We encourage all Haitians to continue working for the long-term development of Haiti,” Paraison said during the inauguration of the forum.
Patriotic responsibility
Cyprien believes Haitians must become actively involved in rebuilding the country. “I think it is irresponsible to not see yourself as part of this whole thing [reconstruction] … It is not a matter of choice anymore,” she said. Her sister agrees. Borno said it is important for professionals in Haiti to stay in their country.
Cyprien is considering moving back to Haiti with the rest of her family after retiring in 10 years. For now, she will continue using her medical expertise toward volunteering a few times a year.