My daughter, Rachel just returned from a week of volunteering in Haiti. A church group includes several Haitian families who have moved to the Boston area; the church sends several volunteers, including some of the Haitian natives to the island every summer to do what they can in such a short time. They took as much clothing, medical supplies and packages of dried foods (like lintels and rice) as they could fit into suitcases.
They worked on a church that is still unfinished since the earthquake two years ago, they helped with youth athletic programs and they fed children who came to the program. Rachel was appalled that the children had no food at home but most -- over about 12 -- had cell phones. Where did that money come from? She had pictures of the devastated building and, like the top photo, of the open sewers which are often filled with plastic trash. The water is not safe for anyone to drink so it is delivered in tank trucks every day which, of course, means people get only small amounts each day. The children always drank up their allotment early and then had no water the rest of the day.
She heard many heart breaking stories, especially of small children who are orphans, some had been buried in rubble and were rescued. The little girl in the top picture is such a child. The couple holding her are from Boston and have been trying to adopt her for two years but haven't been able to get through the red tape of adoption, meanwhile she is being cared for by a woman who has no income -- except what the family can send so she and the child can survive. Rachel (the obvious person in the bottom photo) enjoys being with people and helping as much as she can. But it was a rough experience, she arrived home with insect bites almost all over her body. She was given a cot which was in a corridor that had cross ventilation so she had a breeze but the house -- like all buildings -- had no screens on windows or doors.
The miracle of smiles, of being able to live from moment to moment in the desperate condition that still exists all over Haiti, is apparent in the bottom picture. They are not "smiling for the camera". There were many other photos with sincere smiles. In the moment there was pleasure. Human resilience is amazing -- but those of us in much more privileged circumstances should try to keep in mind that Haiti, and like many other places, is painfully needy, even for the most basic sustenance.