A Haitian Girl's Story of Survival and Success
My name is Widline Luctama. I was born and raised in Gonaives, Haiti. I survived a horrific storm and waterborne sickness. Now, I am an intern at International Action here on Capitol Hill.
I want to share with you why International Action is so important to many Haitians like me.
My story starts with a storm and flood.
I will never forget the storm that destroyed half of my hometown – Gonaives – killing 3000 people in the flooding. I thought I was going to be washed away, too.
The day of the flood – September 18 – it had been raining all day. By 5 in the afternoon, the water was so high I felt I was in the middle of the ocean.
I thought it was the end of the world.
When my aunt realized the water was reaching our second floor, she helped us climb to the roof. We were five terrified people facing the flood.
Our efforts seemed pointless. The water kept rising all around us. By 1 a.m. the area was so flooded that we only had our heads above water.
None of us knew how to swim.
We had to hold on to something or else we would have drowned. It was dark and cold.
The rain was freezing and the water around us was even colder. My cousins were crying and they were very tired. They kept saying they couldn’t hold on anymore.
Suddenly, I heard my aunt screaming from the other side of the house. The water pushed her away. I started praying. I thought I was living my last minutes on earth.
I decided to check on my two little cousins. But, I did not get any answer – both had already drowned.
I heard people all around crying for help, but I couldn’t do anything.
Finally, I heard my other cousin – Gertrude – crying and praying. She told me that she couldn’t hold on any longer. This was the last time I ever heard her voice.
I spent the whole night in pain and agony. I could not feel my arms anymore. I had lost hope.
At the very second that I really wanted to give up, I heard some people in a boat asking if there were any survivors.
I screamed out for help and fortunately they heard me. They threw me a rope and helped me get out of the flooded house.
We made it to safe ground, and as I left my neighborhood, I realized only my house had not collapsed. All the other homes in the area were covered with water or just crumbling into rubble.
At the house behind mine, all 29 residents had drowned.
We ended up at a hotel – turned into refuge – in our neighborhood. It was awful. There was no food or water, but at least the place was dry.
We needed safe water to drink, so I took a big spoon and dug a hole. When other people saw me digging, they all came with big knives and spoons and helped enlarge the hole. We finally found water to drink.
The water was not clean, but we survived.
Everyone in this neighborhood had artisan wells before the flood. In fact my house had the biggest artisan well, and we sold buckets of water.
As we were drinking water from the well we dug, we did not care about the corpses all around. We only thought of surviving. I contracted a skin rash.
The following day, I found my aunt at a camp in downtown Gonaives – where the water had swept her. She did not die. Sadly, my cousins did die.
We got their corpses out of the water and gave them a proper funeral in the flooded cemetery. The burial scenes will remain in my memory forever.
We managed to enter Port-au-Prince and I was very sick with a flaming rash. I went from hospital to hospital, but no one could diagnose my rash. They simply said I had contracted a virus.
When I explained to my doctor what happened to me in the Gonaives flood, they decided I caught the infection from drinking unclean water during the flood.
Clearly, dead bodies had contaminated the water I drank.
The rash came and went, and came again. I would spend one month with clean, bright skin, and the next month I would look like someone who had gotten burnt by a fire.
While I was getting a visa to the Dominican Republic to seek more medical assistance, God granted me a visa for travel to the United States.
When I came here, my mother found a dermatologist for me, and that’s when God cured me.
During my very first visit, Dr. David, my dermatologist, gave me a prescription for a cream. I started using it the same day! Two weeks later my skin was clearer than ever before.
I survived, and now I am thriving – almost finished with my college degree at Seton Hall University. I am blessed to get treatment and an education in the U.S. but there are thousands of Haitians who still struggle with unclean water.
We need your help.
International Action installs a simple, cost-effective chlorinator on community and school water tanks. The chlorine kills all germs that cause waterborne diseases. Your donation of $265 will help install a chlorinator in a community protecting thousands of Haitians.
I have always wanted to be a diplomat and to encourage investment in Haiti’s development. Now, with my internship at International Action, my dream has gotten even bigger. My future goal is to unite all Haitians from around the globe to return to our homeland and change the face of our country.
Upon my graduation, I will return to Haiti and work on my dream. You and I, and all Haitians together, can work towards a better future for Haiti.
With much gratitude,
International Action Summer Intern 2012