Haiti: 10 Years Later

I remember January 12, 2010, the days, the weeks and emotions that followed like yesterday.

There so much to be said but here’s the summary.

Fear and Helplessness

  • Fear that my Mom’s entire family could be gone in an instant from the earthquake rubble or worse — wiped off from a possible Tsunami.
  • feeling helpless knowing there was nothing you could do from afar but just watch the images.

Resourceful

  • To use all sources/connections at my disposal far and wide to find out if the family was safe.
  • To let all that could hear my voice, social media posts know how big of a deal this disaster was and to donate.

Grief

Three days later when the news finally came through that one of my mom’s Goddaughters died. She was so distraught that her employer called me to come and bring her home.

Since the 7.0-scale quake rocked Ketlie Camille’s native Caribbean country last week, phone lines have been clogged and Internet connections broken, leaving her desperate to know the well-being of her siblings, nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends. She’s had trouble sleeping, and has awoken in the middle of the night. read more

Alisha Laventure’s Powerful Commentary

If you haven’t seen WFAA-TV anchor Alisha Laventure commentary in response to President Trump’s alleged comments on Haiti.

You can see and read it below or original version here.

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COMMENTARY: 'a little respect goes a long way'

I have always been proud of my Haitian heritage and at the end of the day, I believe everyone deserves respect. My commentary from the 4pm news.

Posted by Alisha Laventure on Friday, January 12, 2018

WFAA-TV anchor Alisha Laventure is the daughter of Haitian immigrants and shared this commentary during the 4 p.m. newscast on Friday, January 12, 2018.

“I’ve been struggling with what the president said yesterday.
My parents were born in Haiti. They immigrated to this country as children.

They had nothing when they came here.

Think about the amount of grit and courage it takes to leave your home, to cross ocean waters and to start over in a new country.

A country where you don’t speak the language. You have no money – you are starting over from scratch.

My parents did this.

They busted their butts.  And when you look at what they’ve managed to accomplish, there is no denying they are rock stars.

How do you criticize people who are simply trying to come to this country to live a better life?

The President of the United States is a man who represents a nation of immigrants.

I get I’m a journalist. I’m not in the business of sharing my personal opinions.

I’m only supposed to be unbiased and report the facts.

But the fact is, what the president said yesterday was wrong. It was so wrong, I can’t even repeat it on air!  He is the president!

My president.  He’s still my president and that’s how he talks about me? Not just me, an entire continent’s worth of people.

I sat up until 3 a.m. trying to figure how to address this headline on my Facebook page today.  I was trying to be diplomatic.

The president is not playing by the same rules. How can he be so crass, so vulgar? He’s done this before.  Enough is enough! If the head of any corporation said what the president said yesterday, that person would be fired.

Why should we accept any less from the President of the United States of America? A country, by the way, that’s played a hand in the poverty Haiti and other nations face today.

We have a right and a responsibility to hold the president to a higher standard.

His rhetoric falls far from it.

If my job is to report the truth – the truth is, what the president said was hurtful. It was mean. And to be blunt — it was racist.

If you’re willing to let this language fly, you’re part of the problem.
Elected officials —  that includes you.

Putting America first shouldn’t mean bashing people of other nations trying to achieve the American dream.

A little respect goes a long way.”

© 2018 WFAA-TV

Dear Mr. President, Haiti is NOT A Shithole.

“The people of Haiti have been through more, withstood more, found back against more injustice than our President ever has…Haitians slap your hand hard when they shake it. They look you in the eye. They don’t blink. They stand tall and they have dignity. It’s a dignity many in this White House could learn from. It’s a dignity the President, with all his money and all his power, could learn from as well.”- Anderson Cooper

I’m Haitian by heritage, meaning, I wasn’t born there, m

y passport doesn’t identify by it but Haiti, its people, its culture, charm, occasional drama, it’s soil and everything attached to it was born in me. read more

Police Week 2017, Thanks To All Who Serve.

Nashua Police, Police, Police Week

As Police Week 2017 comes to a close, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge and thank all my friends & former colleagues in the law enforcement community for their dedication & sacrifice to public service.

The job is not an easy one. Especially in today’s times, when the recent headlines have not been “good,” most times downright disturbing. read more

Why Customer Service Is A Two Way Street

Recently on my commute from work, I decided to stop at a coffee chain in Arlington, MA.

I had consumed a lot of water, so in reality, I needed to use the facilities, and I was craving a pick-me-up beverage and treat for the ride home.

As I walked into the shop, I noticed the barista behind the counter, and man in front of me had wrapped up his order.

I walked up and said “Hi.” 

She nods but didn’t acknowledge me with a “Welcome, how are you?”

I look on the board to figure out what I’d like to order. read more

Final Thoughts On President Obama

The following was written on my personal Facebook page in the early hours of 20 January 2017 and has been modified since then.

This is going to be quite lengthy. I need to share my thoughts…been mulling it over for a while now. I should preface what I share is my own opinion (not my employers) and has NOTHING to do with politics just CIVICS.

I want to share two of my favorite POTUS #Obama 44 moments:

February 2, 2010: I was fortunate enough ask  The President a question about Haiti during his visit to Nashua, NH. I wasn’t even supposed to be there that day. My friend and old neighbor Cheryl Debelis was sick and was so kind to hand me her ticket.

When I worked in editorial, I got to ask tough questions to important folks.  I pissed off a senator who became a presidential nominee on my 23rd birthday and annoyed a daytime TV talk show host all in the same year.

On that day though I will say my heart was in my throat only because I could not believe The 44th President of The United States of America pointed to me (a private citizen) as I stood up and he said: “Young man over there, you have a question for me?”

I wanted to ask about student loans interest rates but it was already asked so, I asked about something else that was close to my heartstrings — Haiti.

The timing of that question could not have been more perfect. It was almost a month after a 7.0 earthquake rocked the island.  I shared my story asked my question with The President.

He thanked me for my courage to help my family even called me “Babyface.”

Family, friends and co-workers still tease me to this day.

Afterward, Mark Knoller, CBS News White House Correspondent, reached out on Twitter said:”Grow a beard like me you won’t get teased again.” I did so for a brief period of time. As a matter of fact I’m sporting one now.

February 19, 2009: POTUS44’s first overseas trip was to my native land of Canada where he was welcomed by then Governor General Michaëlle Jean.

Born in Haiti, Jean came to Canada at 11-years old as a refugee. She went to school, grew up to become a journalist and later Canada’s first black female Commander-in-Chief.

I grew up watching her on TV on SRC/CBC. To know she was Haitian AND a journalist inspired me. Seeing the both of them walk down on the tarmac at the airport in Ottawa flanked by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Air Force One behind them laughing like old friends meant so much to me. There was so much symbolism in that moment on so many levels.

“In North America, anything is possible,” my mom would tell me as a child. I mean that’s why she left Haiti. For a better life and better opportunities. I wouldn’t be here if she didn’t.

So seeing these two leaders was the true epitome of this possibility and the dream. Obama, the son of an immigrant from Kenya, an African and Jean a Haitian-Canadian just like me. Two black Commanders-In-Chiefs leading North America’s most powerful nations. Historically this has never happened and was truly inspiring. I can go on but I wanted to share those two moments.

 

I don’t associate myself with any political sides. I have witnessed 3 transitions of power in the U.S. since 1994 as a legal permanent resident and maybe more as naturalized U.S. Citizen one day.

While I may not have agreed with all the policies made within the leadership of the Executive Branch in that time period, I respect The Office much like I respect The Crown of the Monarchy.

The burden carried by whoever sits in that chair is heavy. I could be wrong, it seems that the previous folks that have done so know this and care about the country.

While I wish the next person that takes on the role as POTUS45 well, I am deeply concerned about the future of U.S. It’s the only home I’ve really known for a majority of my life.

My life, my family, friends, and career are here. I pray that the rhetoric and emotions fueled on the campaign trail doesn’t lead us going backward in time to an era of Jim Crow or worse — authoritarianism

I pray that my colleagues continue to practice their craft of telling stories under the protection of the 1st Amendment without getting persecuted. I hope they continue to hold those making decisions accountable.

It also saddens me no matter what people views are they are quick to see someone go during a changeover and act like a Monday quarterback.

People were quick to see Bush 41, Clinton 42, Bush 43 and now Obama 44 go… when we really should take a step back and say “Hey thanks SO much for carrying that burden for US and making those hard decisions …we know it ain’t easy.”

If you get the chance, go and take a long look at all the Presidential Portraits when they enter office versus when they leave do so. Whew, a picture is worth a thousand words.

So, Thank you, Mr. President, Barack Obama for carrying the country’s burden over the last 8 years and for continuing to influence people in a positive way until the very end.

Haiti: Seven Years After The Earthquake

Earthquakes happen every day. Sometimes at such great magnitude that buildings are damaged, people injured or even worse death and lives are changed.

First responders come through and aid flows in. The tragedy gets covered in the media.

People rebuild and life goes on.

Seven years ago Thursday at 4:53 p.m. 300,000 plus souls vanished from Haiti. In an instant, millions of lives were changed when a massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked the island.

While life has gone on after 7 years and things are slowly moving forward — the traces of that rocky night and the days that followed remains in a lot of minds and hearts.

I’ve had love-hate relationship with my parent’s homeland but I consider myself an optimist.

January 12, 2010 has changed Haiti for the better for some.

One SMS message sent by a 19-year old from Rutland, Mass has changed the lives of 66 children and hundreds of Haitian families in and around Grand Goâve, a small community west of Haiti’s’ capital.

“They love us so much and everyone is so happy. They love what they have and they work so hard to get nowhere, yet they are all so appreciative. I want to move here and start an orphanage myself.”
Britney Gengel

Gengel was a student at Lynn University on a mission trip in Haiti on that day in 2010. This was the last message she sent to her mom Cherylann before she along with her classmates and professors died shortly thereafter.

The Gengel Family (Her parents Cherylann & Len, her brothers Bernie & Richie) have kept Britney’s promise creating “The Be Like Brit Foundation” and successfully built a big ol’ beautiful self-sustaining home on the side of a hill that is earthquake and hurricane proof housing these lovely children.

During my visit to Brit’s Home in August 2016. I kept hearing the same words over and over from some of the locals:

“Rony, I can’t believe we are here, we do not know what we did to deserve this, we are working, it’s truly a blessing.” 

Indeed it is. Not only at Brit’s home but the work that is currently happening there. New homes are being built every month, people are working and providing for their families.

What’s great about this is that the folks at BLB are in this for the long-run and are already making plans for the next 10 to 15 years.

I don’t think Brit realized the domino/ripple effect she started with just one text message.

I mean an 80-year old elderly man literally macheted his way up that hill where the road currently stands because he believed in that mission.

I could go on but it’s one of the many anecdotes I can share with you looking back 7 years later coming out of there.

Tariq Nasheed, a film producer working on The Untold History of Haiti documentary, made a great point how the world often looks at modern Haiti, through the lens of the media.

We see poverty, we see political sabotage, we see devastation but there’s a lot of mystery and misconceptions about Haiti.

Also no one seems to talk about the positives and how rich the culture is.

Haitian folk are resilient, they are faithful and their soul is rich in love. Even when things may not go in their favor they remain optimistic. I suppose that is where I get it from.

While Haiti is slowly moving forward, we shouldn’t forget about them and all the challenges it faces daily.

I pray that one day it fully transitions to a country of independence and not dependent or others or worse than it was before.

Please keep the people of Haiti in your thoughts and prayers, today and every day. If you want to know more on how you can help please do not hessitate to reach out. read more

15 Years After 9/11/2001

I want to take a brief moment to acknowledge this day.

I have written about it in the past but as always…especially as time passes on, that moment is forever etched in history and as hard and tragic that day was for many who want to forget, it’s important to not forget those who are no longer here and express love and support to their families.

This past July, my fiancée and I had the opportunity to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City.

The visit was somber but while we were there, we made sure to take a moment to stop at three panels to honour 3 individuals:

Mr. Captain John Ogonowski of Dracut, MA

Harry Glenn of Piscataway, NJ

Mr. Brian Kinney of Lowell, MA

While @jennie_lynne_930 were in NYC over the weekend we spent sometime at the @911memorial & museum to pay respect to 3 individuals who died on September 11, 2001. Capt. #JohnOgonowski, Harry Glenn and Brian Kinney. While we did not know these men personally we have ties through their family, friends & communities. Jenn was a classmate of Capt #Ogonowski daughters that day and was walking with them in the hallway to their next class. #HarryGlenn is a fellow N.C. Central alum. On the 5th anniversary in 2006 I tracked down his widow Sharon (also a #NCCU alumna) and parents and wrote a follow up piece for the Campus Echo. #BrianKinney widow Allison was a 2nd grade teacher in #Tyngsborough where I previously worked. I took part of the 10th anniversary dedication. Walking through the site was somber but beautiful to see life is returning 15 years later. read more

Channeling Social Responsibility In Haiti

Editor’s Note:
The following blog post initially appeared on The Be Like Brit Foundation, Inc website on August 28, 2016. You may read the original piece by clicking here.

I was personally asked by Papi Len Gengel and Jonathan LaMare to contribute to this week’s blog post on belikebrit.org following my first trip to Brit’s Home with Team Water-Buffalo.

As a son of Haitian immigrants, it felt surreal being back in the old country knowing where you are — yet experiencing something totally fresh and new with two mindsets:

The mindset of a “jaspora” (a diasporan) who has been immersed in the country’s culture since birth.

The mindset of a “blan” (a foreigner) who at times knew absolutely nothing.

During the trip, I became de facto diplomat acting as the bridge between the two cultures. Giving both my new friends an insight into the country and teaching members of the Grand Goâve community what life is like abroad. At the same time, I was learning more about my “Home Sweet Haiti,” the country born in me.

I have always felt a strong sense of social responsibility for my parent’s homeland and to not sit idly by watching it crumble. However, it wasn’t until I actually arrived and got to work that I could see my actions although so small making a long-term impact.

Today, Jackson François, better know to many as “Pap Padap,” and his family are now enjoying their brand new home on top of a beautiful hill overlooking their beautiful homeland.

 

Never again will this family have the need to worry about having a roof over their heads and being fully secure.

Meanwhile, 67 children currently living at Brit’s home, will continue to receive unconditional love while learning new things that the would not have been possible had January 12, 2010 and the days following it been just another day in Haiti.

 

My friend Hannah Lowman-Ernest who also traveled with me this week best described it like this:

“While we can’t go and make a difference for the whole country, knowing that as a group we did make a difference for a family is such a positive feeling. To see people with so little continue to move forward with life and never give up is inspiring.”

Experiencing all of these moments this past week has renewed my faith and hope for humanity.

There is a chorus line from a song by Scorpio Universel, a Haitian kompas-direct band, released in 1977, titled “Ensem’ Ensem’…” It translates to: “Together, Together.”

The Chorus line goes:

“Ensem, Esnsem nap resusi/ Together, Together, we will be successful.”

If together, we were to put our heads together, our actions and contributions would go a long way in making a long-term impact in Haiti.

For those who have traveled here in the past, it starts at home sharing your experiences with others.

Let us start this and continue to help Haiti move forward together.

 

Rony Camille is the son of Haitian parents and is currently a digital producer based in Boston, MA USA., He can be reached through his website: ronycamille.com