PAINFUL mem­o­ries resur­face

Fam­ily that sur­vived the dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake wor­ried for their peo­ple fol­low­ing an­other mas­sive nat­u­ral disaster six years later

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Na­dine Wil­son-Har­ris Gleaner Writer na­dine.wil­son@glean­erjm.com

THE MAS­SIVE dam­age un­leashed on Haiti by Hur­ri­cane Matthew has con­jured painful mem­o­ries for Marie So­lette Rameau Com­pere, who left the coun­try in 2010 with her three chil­dren af­ter a dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake de­stroyed ev­ery­thing they owned.

Al­though she has since made Ja­maica her home, Marie and her hus­band have been un­easy ever since Matthew wreaked havoc in Haiti, as they con­tem­plate the strug­gles be­ing ex­pe­ri­enced by those in the coun­try of their birth.

She said she has been cry­ing and pray­ing for Haiti ever since the fierce Cat­e­gory Four hur­ri­cane made land­fall, and more so as the ex­tent of the dam­age be­comes ob­vi­ous through me­dia re­ports. An es­ti­mated 1,000 Haitians have died and much more have lost their homes, crops and live­stock. Thou­sands are now liv­ing in shel­ters.

“When mi see that, mi cry, mi cry,” lamented Marie, who is not flu­ent in English. “I love my coun­try.” She re­called hold­ing on to her neigh­bour’s hand and pray­ing earnestly as the earth­quake bat­tered their houses in 2010. As soon as the tremors calmed, she ran to her chil­dren’s school, only to en­counter more graphic scenes of de­struc­tion. For­tu­nately, her chil­dren were not hurt.

BAD BAD EARTH­QUAKE

“That earth­quake was bad bad for Haitians, nuff peo­ple dead. One fam­ily of 11 and 10 peo­ple, all of them dead,” Marie shared with The Sun­day Gleaner.

Her hus­band, St Dic Com­pere, who was in Ja­maica at the time work­ing as a tailor so he could pro­vide for his fam­ily back home, said for seven days he tried un­suc­cess­fully to reach them.

“When I did not hear from them, I tell you, I’m walk­ing look­ing like it’s the breeze was car­ry­ing me. I am walk­ing and I am talk­ing to my­self look­ing like a mad­man,” he said.

Com­pere reached out to ev­ery­one he thought could as­sist him to get in con­tact with his fam­ily in Haiti, in­clud­ing of­fi­cials at the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs and other govern­ment of­fi­cials. Even­tu­ally, his boss sug­gested he speak to a lo­cal Syr­ian fam­ily, who are orig­i­nally from Haiti, to see if they could as­sist. Based on their ef­forts, he was fi­nally able to make con­tact.

A few days later, with the help of the Ja­maican Govern­ment, ar­range­ments were made for the Ja­maica De­fence Force to take his wife and chil­dren to the is­land.

Com­pere, who has been liv­ing in Ja­maica since 1999 and be­came a ci­ti­zen in 2014, has for­tu­nately been spared the agony of wor­ry­ing about his im­me­di­ate fam­ily once again with an­other disaster now strik­ing their coun­try, but both he and his wife are wor­ried about “their peo­ple” in the af­ter-ef­fects of Hur­ri­cane Matthew.

Marie said she is es­pe­cially con­cerned about her fa­ther, who is still liv­ing in Les Cayes, lo­cated in south­ern Haiti. Al­though she has been as­sured that he is okay, emer­gency re­lief work­ers have pre­dicted a long jour­ney to re­cov­ery for Haiti from Hur­ri­cane Matthew, which was still in the process of re­build­ing af­ter the 2010 earth­quake. The re­cov­ery ef­forts have been com­pounded even fur­ther by a cholera out­break.

“I miss my coun­try, be­cause my fam­ily is over there. My fa­ther is 90 years old. When I came to Ja­maica in 2010, my fa­ther cried, he cried. Him miss me, and I miss him, too. I want to see my fa­ther, but I can’t be­cause the ticket is too ex­pen­sive and I don’t have money. I am not work­ing, is my hus­band alone work­ing,” said Marie.

COM­PERE TAUGHT ENGLISH

Un­like his wife and his now three adult chil­dren, Com­pere had been taught English for­mally in Haiti, which made it eas­ier for him to se­cure a job lo­cally. He had ini­tially come to Ja­maica as part of a mis­sion­ary group, but de­cided to stay and se­cure a work per­mit so he could seek em­ploy­ment and ac­quaint him­self with the cul­ture.

“The first trip, when we went to Man­dev­ille on Cale­do­nia Av­enue (Manch­ester), there is a plaza nearby and I heard, you know, some peo­ple talk­ing to each other, but it was pure Pa­tois, so I couldn’t un­der­stand noth­ing about what they were say­ing,” he said.

“But if some­body talk good English, I can pick up some­thing.”

Com­pere started out work­ing as a tailor at a busi­ness place in Half-Way Tree, St An­drew, a week af­ter com­ing to Ja­maica, but he now op­er­ates his own busi­ness, where he makes just enough to pay the bills. He has not been back to Haiti since 2003 for the same rea­son his wife has not gone back – it is just too ex­pen­sive.

For now, they try to com­fort them­selves with the knowl­edge that they have not lost any fam­ily mem­ber in the de­struc­tion of Hur­ri­cane Matthew, but their hearts still weep for their coun­try and their peo­ple, and the help they so des­per­ately need.

Dam­aged houses in south­west­ern Haiti, fol­low­ing Hur­ri­cane Matthew. That earth­quake was bad bad for Haitians, nuff peo­ple dead. One fam­ily of 11 and 10 peo­ple, all of them dead

RICARDO MAKYN/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

St Dic Com­pere and Marie So­lette Rameau Com­pere, Haitian cou­ple liv­ing in Ja­maica.

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