What gives me hope . . .
by Her Excellency Michaëlle Jean
Every ordeal is an opportunity to rediscover what is essential and to learn from what has happened to better resist and return to life.
This is what my grandmother told me and I have always thought she was speaking on behalf of our ancestors, that this was key to the Haitian people’s much-talked about resilience and inextricably linked to the country’s history.
It is a country that survived 350 years of slavery and colonization, then revolted for its freedom, giving rise, in 1804, to the Republic of Haiti, the first republic of the daughters and sons of Black slaves to be created in the name of freedom, equality and friendship.
Its people have survived decades of dictatorships, military oppression and coups d’état, and have fought relentlessly to reclaim their rights and freedoms.
Its people have survived daily in vile conditions, in misery, in a land devastated by erosion, and have faced, without any recourse, injustice, inequality, or organized crime, which makes the most of the instability to spread terror.
Its people have survived a food crisis, the economic crisis affecting the whole world, and a series of natural disasters. They have survived a very long list of truly horrible luck.
And every time, the people of Haiti have tried to picked themselves up and remain optimistic, hopeful that the rest of the world will not turn away. Haiti recently had a little more political stability and was about to turn a major corner thanks to a national reconstruction and human, sustainable development plan that would have allowed the country to finally move away from chronic assistance.
But fate had another plan on January 12, 2010, at around 5:00 p.m., when the earth shook with destructive fury. And we have lived with the aftermath, one hour to the next, our heart breaking a little more every day.
But every ordeal is an opportunity to rediscover what is essential and to learn from what has happened to better resist and return to life, right, Grandmother?
Although we are still mourning those we have lost and trying to comfort those who survived, what is essential now is to recognize the extent of the solidarity being shown by people all around the world so that the people of Haiti know that they are not alone. The strong friendship being shown reminds us that humanity grows when differences are cast aside and we work together to get through the very worst of situations.
What brings me back to life and gives me hope are all the messages that have reached me, expressions of sympathy and solidarity with the families in mourning, those who have been devastated, anguished and overwhelmed by this slaughtering of human lives.
What helps ward off my pessimism and feelings of helplessness are all the initiatives being put in place here in Canada, by individuals, communities, municipalities, governments, institutions, businesses, professional associations, NGOs and artists, people from one end of the country to the other and from as far away as the Arctic, who want to contribute to the emergency efforts being made.
We must all come out of this ordeal having grown, but we can only do so if this tragedy gives rise to a project that will allow Haiti to not only survive, but to fully control its destiny. . . .