It all started the day after the massive earthquake that struck Haiti on 12 January. My wife Sofia and I have lived there for three years, from 2000 to 2003, and we still have a strong emotional band with the place. In addition, in a later life I have managed disaster response programs, a.o. after the 2004 Tsunami in the Indian Ocean, so the idea to go and help rebuild was not more than a logical step. Through my friends and acquaintances in Haiti and in the development and disaster response sector I let it be known that I was available at short notice, and it subsequently didn't take Save the Children long to get back to me and recruit me for their team in Haiti.
So now I am all set to leave for Port-au-Prince, next Sunday 7 February, for a period of 3-6 months, in principle. They say you either hate it in Haiti or you love it. I have to admit that going back scares me a bit: we loved it. I remember Haiti as a charming place, with its gingerbread houses, its iron market, its busy and lively streets full of market sellers, colourful people, noise. Sure enough, also with the smell of rubbish in the streets, with poor neighbourhoods and muddy and potholed streets, and with bare, deforested hills, but still, the country had something very special, not in the least because of the Haitians, with their resilience, their friendliness and warmth, their hospitality. I wonder how much of this special feeling is left. How resilient can a people be, what does it take to destroy good humour?
I'll let you know.