Tonight after work I attended a presentation at our corporate headquarters. Barbara Wander, a retired school teacher from San Rafael, was driving to a school in Haiti on January 12 when the 7.0 earthquake struck killing thousands and displacing 3,000,000 people. Using a flashlight and the headlights from her car, she helped to dig people out from the rubble. Barbara shared her story including some sobering facts:
The Haitian population is overwhelmingly poor: about 1% are upper class, 4% are middle class, and the remaining 95% are far below what would be considered the poverty line in the United States.
Most of the buildings in Haiti are made from cinder blocks that are produced locally. Sand is mixed with cement and allowed to dry in the sun. Sometimes the mix of sand to concrete is not correct. Sometimes the blocks are not given enough time to dry. This explains why many of the structures could not withstand the earthquake.
Many buildings in Haiti have thick concrete roofs. These were constructed with Hurricanes in mind - not earthquakes. In fact most Haitians had never learned about earthquakes. On January 12 most had no idea what happened. They just felt the shake and witnessed the devastation.
Although her tale was marked by sadness of friends no longer living (whom she identified by first names), it also included great triumphs in the spirits of those who remain. It was touching to hear about "the world full of good people" who have helped with donations of money, shelter, food, and clothing. The Autodesk presentation was sponsored by Legacies in Motion. Legacies in Motion matches people with causes that interest them by asking a simple question: "What type of personal legacy do you wish to leave?" We have so much in this country that we take for granted. We flip a switch, and the light comes on. We turn the faucet, and clean water flows. We open the refrigerator door and decide what to eat.
Barbara is returning to Haiti after Easter. She is bringing a construction engineer who will help with the rebuilding efforts in a more earthquake sustainable way.