News / Americas

Haiti Quake Survivors Cope with Physical, Emotional Scars

Alex Villarreal

Thousands of Haitians sought refuge in the United States after the devastating earthquake in Haiti last year.  Many suffered unimaginable trauma and bear both physical and emotional scars.

For the Jean family, life together is a blessing.

“Because we were in [the] face of death.  That’s the work of God, because we are alive,” Stevenson Jean says.

Stevenson lived through Haiti's earthquake with his mother and six siblings.

His father, Jean Claude, was in Miami, working to support them.

“I call my family, the phone, the phone is dead,” he recalls.

All are safe now, but life still is not easy.

Marie-Rolle Jean
Marie-Rolle Jean

“We had many difficulties after the earthquake. I had two children hurt in the quake and myself," explains Marie-Rolle, Jean Claude's wife.

And with another child on the way, the Jeans also struggle financially.

“$400 per week.  Not enough for my family,” Jean Claude says.

To help cope, they rely on faith.  Emmanuel Zizi is the pastor at Worshipers' House of Prayer in Miami.

“All of us have the same problems, so this is really, we help each other carry our burdens,” the pastor notes.

Another group helping quake victims is Haitian Women of Miami, a social services agency for immigrants known as FANM.  Marleine Bastien founded the group.

“These victims, they go through a lot.  A lot of them need housing, they need to move, they need access to school,” she explains.

Nerline Cajuste
Nerline Cajuste

Nerline Cajuste came to FANM for help applying for health care aid.  She had hip replacement surgery after suffering injuries in the quake.

"After the surgery, I have a blood clot.  Now I feel pain, I feel pain in my leg.  I cannot walk good now," Nerline says.

The pain is not just physical.

"It makes me sad," Nerline adds.

"250,000 people died.  These people, they are traumatized," notes Marlene Bastien.

When Brutus Michel relives the earthquake, he remembers his wife.

"Her heart was beating so fast, that she died 12 days later," he explains.

Michel says moving in with family in the U.S. has helped him cope.

It's a daily battle all too familiar to Claude Cyntia Riou. She shares her story with the help of a translator.

"This picture is the last picture that I took of him," she says, holding a photo of her son.

Riou had just picked up eight-year-old Tonton from school when the earthquake hit.

"When I saw his feet out of the car, I said 'Oh my God, Tonton died.'"

Riou says she relives that moment every day.

"I’m laughing, I talk, but it’s not me.  I’m here, but not really," she says.

But with the help of her other children and her faith...Riou, like other survivors, carries on.

"For me, Tonton is not dead," Riou says.

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