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At a glance: Haiti

Parents and teachers help children in Haiti cope with quake effects

Haiti earthquake: one-year report

© UNICEF Haiti/2010/McBride
Mackintosh (left) and Freddy Durvier with their father, Jean Andre Durvier, survived the earthquake in Haiti and have lived through the generosity of friends and support from their school community.

Children in Haiti are still reeling from the lingering 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 Tania McBride

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 4 January 2011 – Like many people in Haiti, Jean Andre Durvier can’t forget the moment the earthquake struck Port-au-Prince. Under the shade tarp at the back of the tiny Dalmas 33 Dei Gloria primary school – a temporary facility that his two sons attend – Mr. Durvier speaks softly amidst the constant roar of traffic in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

“I had decided on a whim, at 4:15 p.m. on the day of the earthquake, to pick up Mackintosh and Freddy from school,” he recalls. “I work from home as a mechanic and the school is 15 minutes away.”

Mr. Durvier, who was widowed prior to the quake, clears his throat and pauses to collect himself. “As I was turning into my gate at 4:52 p.m.,” he continues, “I felt the car being twisted and pulled. I didn’t know what was happening. Right in front of my children’s eyes, our house collapsed. It was too much for the children to see.”

A semblance of normalcy

Since that day, their school routine has been vital for Mackintosh Durvier and his younger brother Freddy to establish a semblance of normal life.

“They are with their friends, who are terribly important, and they can learn,” says principal Elizabeth Myrtha Hyppolite. “It is much better that they are at school than at home surrounded by the memories of January 12, or in the camps.”

Mr. Durvier agrees that life under a tent in one of the Haitian capital’s camps for the displaced is not suitable for his children, who have dealt with many challenges and have myriad questions.

Need for stability

“So many things have happened this year. They are asking me what is going on in Haiti,” he says. “They feel confused. I am their father and I am the key figure in their life. I have to keep their morale up and keep them stable, particularly now. I have to be their anchor.”

Ms. Hyppolite nods as Mr. Durvier speaks. She restarted the temporary school days after the earthquake flattened the former school building next door, where she had worked for many years.

UNICEF engineers recently assessed the site in preparation for the construction of five semi-permanent classrooms, which will incorporate water and sanitation facilities, as well.

Scars slow to heal

Although parents are the first line of support, explains Ms. Hyppolite, the school community also provides a place where children can find some normalcy away from their chaotic day-to-day existence. But while the physical environment can be altered, the scars borne by the children and parents of Haiti will not heal overnight, she cautions.

“Parents should not be forgotten, either. They are suffering, as well,” says Ms. Hyppolite. “It’s difficult for the children to survive. Their parents sometimes simply don’t have the money to feed them or provide for them as they had done before.”

Mr. Durvier adds: “I think about this every day. I live from day to day, relying on the generosity of friends and family and what little work I can get.” His eyes fill with tears, “It’s my responsibility to protect them, and provide for them,” he says of his sons. “It’s very difficult.”



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