Skip to main content

Home  About Us  Our Values  Donate Now  Our Friends in Haiti  Shop  Latest News  Interviews  History of Haiti  FAQ  Privacy  Terms and conditions  Contact Us   
Part 1 > Part 2 > Part 3 > Part 4 >  

Earthquake Survivors Tell Their Story

                   WATCH MUSIC VIDEO: 2010 Haiti Earthquake Tribute Song (ONE LOVE, ONE NATION) by Sharafi 





Q:From your perspective what do you think Haitian people need the most?


Bayyinah Bello: Well for us it’s a question of mostly giving our people the right training so people know how to defend themselves, how to protect themselves, how to do what they need to do. Whereas the general thing here is like wait; the international community is coming and even the stuff that people can do for themselves, they cannot do. That’s exactly what we don’t need. We need young folks who know what to do, who can go anywhere, and say okay this is how we are going to solve this problem. Because anyway, there will never be enough of international anything to solve problems in any country. In order to solve the problems the people have to get the training they need so that they can rise up to the situation. 


 Many hands, catching the bottle.




Q: Bertho Mathieu, (Haitian interpreter and earthquake survivor): Bayyinah, I left Haiti about three weeks ago. So is there any hope, do you see anything that is being done by the Haitian states or by the international community, is there any help coming in?


Bayyinah Bello: There is lots of stuff here, but for some reason it doesn’t seem to filter down to those who need it. You know, you will see someone come up from whatever organisation comes in and there are maybe two thousand families somewhere and they’re giving away a hundred whatever. That’s not the way, there is a better way of doing it.  One horrible example that a lot of people repeat in the country, is that they want to distribute rice and they open the bag of rice and drop the stuff on the floor.             

(Right) An injured woman is helped after being rescued in Port-au-Prince.



Q: Yes we have seen some things that are really disturbing, shocking in fact. Such as UN soldiers turning their guns on the people and ordering helpers to put the food back on the trucks. Why refuse to distribute the food, when people were hungry and desperate? It's a real wake up call for people. To add to that the general perception in this country now that the disaster has happened is that Haitian people are uneducated.  Before the earthquake Haitian people as poor as they were, were educating themselves, there were schools, universities and people were scratching out a living from the meagre resources they were allowed. How do you feel about the treatment of Haitians in the media?  



  • Population: 10 million (UN, 2009)
  • Capital: Port-au-Prince (1 million live in city)
  • Area: 27,750 sq km (10,714 sq miles)
  • Major languages: Creole, French
  • Major religion: Christianity
  • Life expectancy: 59 (men), 63 (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 gourde = £61
  • Main exports: Light manufactures, coffee, oils,  mangoes
  • GNI per capita: US $660 (World Bank, 2008)


A Peruvian peacekeeper screams as he tries to control a

crowd during food distribution for earthquake

survivors at a warehouse in Port-au-Prince.



Bayyinah Bello:
Well I don’t know what the structure is at the top, but let me tell you that when the earthquake first happened, systematically Haitians gathered in many communities. You have oil, I have rice, he has sugar, we put it all together we cook one pot, we all eat. So people were doing their own small stuff together, that was the instance it happened, people immediately gathered.  But when the so-called big organisations arrived which was days later, and that’s another thing, they don’t show what Haitians did! Most of the people, who were saved immediately, were saved by the people  (yes they were not trained) Haitians saved them. The people who were getting into taking risks, getting into broken houses to get other people out, were Haitians.





   ALIVE: A teacher who was injured when his school collasped
                is helped by a stranger outside a hospital.                                       



Q: And this is what we are not seeing in England. And we know that a tremendous amount of work was happening with the Haitians working together, and things like that must be continued to be highlighted, to make people understand, what is going on and the work that people are teaming together to do.

Bayyinah Bello:
Exactly, even at the Fondation we have a couple of fifth year medical students. Well instantly, the next day when they came here they organised a group of others who were not necessarily medical students. They gave them basic knowledge and they went out into the street to help people. But that kind of story generally the international journalist is not going to be interested. Haitians could be spending three or four days digging to get somebody out, and then the military arrive at the last hour, and the story is – this military guy got the person out.


Q: Yes that is what we see. We know that you personally Bayyinah, were affected by this earthquake. Would you share with us what happened?


Bayyinah Bello: Well, I was at a meeting at the ministry of culture, we were seven in a room, when suddenly I saw dust invading us and I said it must be a tornado. And then under our feet start rumbling and a noise, a funny noise came with it. And then the whole room was turning around and flying around. So somebody came in, a Haitian man; we were three women and he took each one of us out through the room, through a window. That happened at 5pm and we worked up until 9pm removing stones from those people that had been trapped under the rubble, those who were in the meeting with us, one of us died. I had a broken shoulder, a couple of ribs and stuff like that, but it is nothing when over 600,000 people past. We lost more than 600,000 from some reports. (see images below of the destroyed Ministry of Culture and Communication offices).







The Department of Justice building, one of

many shattered government centers, with

dead persons under the rubble.


Buildings across the capital have been destroyed.

The presidential palace, parliament, the finance ministry, the ministry of

 public works, the ministry of communication and culture, the tax office, schools, hospitals.



Q: 600,000 died!


Bayyinah Bello: Yes some say 250,000 - 300,000. The US has a number, the French has a number, the Russians have their number, different groups etc. But I tend to believe those who are talking about 600,000 are closer.


Q:Yes because you are on the ground and can see what is happening. 


Bayyinah Bello: Exactly, up until now a lot of people are buried under their houses, it’s not been cleaned up yet. And I hear we have tons of materials for the clean up and it hasn’t begun.





 The Presidential Palace in ruins (built by British engineers).



Q: Now with your organisation, you have over 250 volunteers; your resources must really be stretched to the limit in terms of trying to help people?


Bayyinah Bello: That's true.


Q: Tell us what is it that you need from us. How can we help Fondation Félicité? One of the things you were asking us to do was to support the students who you are working with, because some of them have lost their families, they no longer even have a home. These are psychology and  anthropology students etc and they have lost everything. In fact we saw some news clip which showed the University of Haiti destroyed by the earthquake. There were 1000 people in the building and only 8 people walked out alive.


Bayyinah Bello: Yes the faculty of linguistics completely lost. The faculty of science completely lost, that’s correct. So the students’ today their school is destroyed, their houses are destroyed, they have nothing. We give them training, put them out to work so they are concentrating on accomplishing and then, find a stipend we can give them at the end of each month, so they can regain a sort of routine in life. We work with university students, there is a lot of data to be collected, we have to photograph places, we have to record, we have to register. Like this week we are going to visit a 104-year old woman who is in a camp, who has seen so many different natural disasters. So there is a lot of data to collect so Haitians have an idea of what happened, because so often as foreigners have all the data, they analyse it, they decide what its worth and what happened. So what we want to do, is organise our team, train the young people put them out there with the equipment they need and collect the data produce the documents, as to  what happened here in Haiti in 2010.


So of course while you do this work, it is difficult to interview somebody who’s wounded, who’s hungry, and you have nothing to give them. So even when we are doing research, we have to do it in the way

that our culture works. When we go to visit someone who is hurt, we want to be able to give them a minimum of whatever we have. We can’t just go and ask questions and walk away.



An alive school student trapped under

debris at a church school.



We also want to be able to find ways so that the young people who come to Fondation Félicité, can still have a decent way of living even if they no longer have a house, they can have a way of feeding themselves, and we do have classes on how to use the plants and the leaves and the products of the land to maintain good health, it’s a very important part of the work we do at the Fondation. Most of the students are sleeping on the university ground and they don’t even have a tent. The first priority is a tent and the second is the means to purchase food, water and then get a monthly allowance. In particular of course for the volunteers of the Fondation because many of them have nothing. Some of them are students who need help to continue with their education. So we need to find universities outside the country that will help them to complete their studies.



Click the video to watch Bayyinah Bello talk about the help Haitians need







Next: Part 4 [click here]