EL PASO, Texas — Memories are all that exist for Dr. Frantz Placide in Haiti, a country he once called home, a place where many in his family are now homeless.
“It’s all gone, all those places I was at. I have memories there and it doesn’t exist anymore,” said the Haitian-American ophthalmologist.
The magnitude seven earthquake that devastated Haiti shortly before 5 p.m. on January 12, killing some 250,000 persons was centered about 10 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, the Caribbean nation’s capital.
Already the poorest nation in the hemisphere with 80 percent of its population living under the poverty line, the earthquake and dozens of aftershocks that stuck Haiti left millions homeless
“We were poor. There were no paved roads. You had outhouses and no electricity and you had to pump wells,” recalls Placide. “That was my home, that is where I was born and it’s sad because a lot of stuff that I knew, places that I had visited aren’t there anymore.”
Placide’s sister, Gabrielle Placide, also a medical doctor, traveled back to Haiti following the earthquake, in order to help.
“She said to me that tents are being sent in for the homeless people and a lot of them think that the tents are a step up from what they were living in before,” Placide said. “They are happier now because the tents are sturdier. What they were living in before was made of cardboard or blankets.”
Gabrielle, who has set up AIDS clinics there in the past told Placide that her biggest obstacle has been a failure to secure medical supplies and antibiotics to take to Haiti. “She says that there are a lot of amputations. They have to use regular saws because they don’t have surgical saws and they are giving people Ibuprofen afterwards because they don’t have any [prescription-strength] pain killers,” Placide said.
Both he and his sister studied medicine with the intent of being able to help others, and during times such as these they are able to fulfill that passion.
But despite the medical help arriving from around the world, doctors couldn’t save the lives of the thousands killed immediately after the earthquake hit.
For his part, Placide has donated money in order to help his family through this devastating time.
According to the New York Times, the total giving for Haiti by February had exceeded $560 million from the United States alone. The donations have helped bring food, water and aid to a nation in so much need but, Placide cautions those who want to donate money to the relief effort.
“People have to be wise about where they give their money. As far as giving money, I would give it directly to church groups that can establish partnerships with another church,” said Placide, who is actively involved in his own church —Abundant Living Faith Center.
“My sister said that people are happier now; they have more food and water coming in,” he said.
For Placide, Haiti is not just a place in the news. It is a place with his deeply rooted personal history, and although he immigrated to the United States as a child, his hometown is not easily forgotten, especially after this catastrophic destruction and loss of life.