While opening up the news on Saturday morning, Bob Beckett thought he had somehow opened up a story from the 2010 Haiti earthquake by mistake.
But the former Langford fire chief was unfortunately seeing the initial reports of a 7.2-magnitude earthquake – which by Tuesday had resulted in a death toll encroaching 2,000 in Haiti.
He worried there would be significant damage no matter where the earthquake hit on the Caribbean nation, due to its topography and lack of building codes.
“You’re going to have incredible devastation, which is evident,” he said.
Beckett got some relief when he learned the quake didn’t impact two orphanages, near the capital of Port-au-Prince, that he and the Rotary Club of the West Shore have supported for over a decade. On Saturday, he immediately reached out to Enel Michel, who grew up at the Baby Jesus of Prague Orphanage – one of the two sites supported by the club – and now works there. Thankfully, the was no damage and nobody was injured there.
Still, Beckett said he feels for the nation that has been continually pounded by superseding crises since colonialism. Recently, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation has been dealing with the pandemic, gang violence and, in July, a presidential assassination.
Southwestern Haiti, hardest hit by the earthquake, was also drenched by the heavy rains of Tropical Storm Grace as it reached the region Monday. The storm caused a temporary halt in search and rescue efforts and Beckett said the rain could cause flooding and other issues that further impede the earthquake relief work on the ground.
He’s in touch with both orphanages regularly, including a weekly call with Enel – who’s become a close friend. Through it all, Enel opened their Saturday conversation by asking how Beckett was doing.
“The day I talked to him about the earthquake, (he said) ‘Yup we’re fine here, how are you and your family?’” Beckett said. “It’s amazing, they’re not thinking of themselves, they’re thinking of others. It’s a lesson that we should all take to heart and learn from.”
He wishes the Westshore Rotary Club could get down there and help, but that hasn’t been possible due to a number of factors in the last couple of years, such as the pandemic and security concerns. In the meantime, he directed anyone with the means to donate to the Canadian Red Cross (bit.ly/3APv8bi) as they’re providing relief in Haiti right now.
Despite all the challenges they face, Beckett said the Haitians soldier on with a love of life that’s exemplified through their rich culture.
“I fell in love with Haiti because of the Haitians, they’re a remarkable people.”
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