At a glance: Haiti

Christian's story: A boy picks up the pieces, and remains optimistic, in post-quake Haiti

Haiti earthquake: one-year report

Children in Haiti are still reeling from the impact of the 12 January 2010 earthquake. Here is one in a series of stories on the long road from relief to recovery, a year later.

By Bob Coen

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 31 January 2011 – Christian Dubois, 16, stands with his mother, Estelle, at his side in the empty lot where their family home once stood. All that remains is a small section of crumbled wall.

VIDEO: Watch as Christian Dubois, a 16-year-old Haitian boy, narrates his experience and describes obstacles on the road ahead, a year after the devastating earthquake. Produced by Bob Coen. Watch in RealPlayer

“Before January 12, our life was pretty much perfect. We lived normally and had everything we needed,” he says. “I look at this bare space and I think of my childhood – my childhood with my cousins, my friends. We used to play, to run around. There was a lot of life in that house.”

Like the millions of Haitians who survived it, Christian will never forget the earthquake that struck in January 2010.

‘Build your country’

“It was terrible. My life changed all of a sudden,” he recalls. “Our house was completely destroyed. We were all under the rubble. There were nine of us in the house at the time. Thank God some of our neighbours came to pull us from underneath the rubble. But one of my aunts was killed. We don’t have anything left. We lost everything.”

Creating opportunities for young Haitians like Christian is a top priority for UNICEF.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Haiti/2010/Coen
Christian Dubois, 16, stands with his mother, Estelle, next to the only remaining wall of their home, which was destroyed in the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

“We have to involve adolescents much more, and young people in particular,” says UNICEF Representative in Haiti Françoise Gruloos-Ackermans. “We forget this part of the population who are not going to school, who do not have jobs. They are not listened to. They have so much energy, so much creativity. They are just waiting for us to say, ‘Go, build your country. Build your country with us.’”

Living hand to mouth

After the quake, Christian, his mother, older sister and 14-month-old niece left Port-au-Prince to live with relatives in the coastal city of Les Cayes for three months. They returned to the capital when a family friend offered to help.

“A friend of my mother has paid the rent for this house for us,” Christian explains, sitting on the floor of the family’s bare living room. “We are now living in this house, but without a lot of the things we had in our life before.”

Due to a medical condition, Christian’s mother cannot hold a proper job, so she does odd sewing jobs to earn money. The family is living hand to mouth from her meagre earnings, and Christian has not been able to attend school since the earthquake because the family cannot afford school fees.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Haiti/2010/Coen
At a home rented by a family friend in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Christian Dubois spends time making bracelets because his family cannot afford to send him to school.

“To help my mother, I go to the market, I do the dishes and mop the floor,” he says. “But I would like to become an engineer. That is my dream. That is my goal in life … because I have a bit of talent with mathematics. But to become an engineer, one has to go to school to study, to learn.”

Philosophical despite challenges

To help pass the time, Christian makes bracelets and necklaces. “It gives me some pleasure when I’m not able to go school,” he says. “There a lot of young people who are really talented, who do some really incredible things, but they are discouraged by the situation – like me.”

Despite all the challenges, Christian remains philosophical and optimistic.

“When I think about what happened to us, it makes my heart ache,” he admits. “In life there are high points and low points. One has to experience that to understand it. But my mother always said, ‘As long as there is life, there is hope.’”


 

 

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