Crumbled buildings, buckled streets, destroyed homes and nearly 200,000 dead bodies is not a scene from the latest horror movie; this is the reality that many people in Haiti are experiencing. But, their cries are not falling on deaf ears; volunteers from all over the world have gravitated to the country to aid in relief efforts.
Richard Cantave, a Haitian living in Mount Vernon, N.Y., packed a bag of medical supplies and food, and headed to Haiti. He did not know what he was going to see, who was going to be there or how long it would take, but he was ready to help in any way he could.
Cantave desired to do more than watch television and donate to the Red Cross or Yéle Haiti, fellow Haitian and entertainer Wyclef Jean’s foundation. He wanted to be hands on.
“Just like I did after Katrina in New Orleans, I want to head down there, suit up and start digging,” Cantave said.
He researched ways to fly to Haiti, found routes and boarded a plane. He headed into unstable terrain. After more than 24 hours of travel, his eyes were not prepared for the catastrophe that lay before him.
“People are dead everywhere, houses are pancaked and there is no equipment to lift the rubbles,” he said. “Some people send text messages saying they are alive, and where they are to people in the states. Communication here is very affected.”
Cantave kept his Facebook friends updated on the situation in Haiti. One update informed a friend that he had found her father. Another friend responded, “Richard … you’re making me cry.” Many others had the same reactions.
His family is proud of his efforts. “[We were] moved by Richard’s wanting to reach our fellow Haitians who were suffering, and in great need of care and compassion,” said his father, Jean-Lucien Cantave, a political specialist for the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. “He told us that he owed it to his grandfather to return to his native country and serve in time of need.”
Cantave’s father is not allowed to comment on the situation in Haiti, but he stressed his overwhelming love and appreciation for his son.
Cantave was in Haiti for five days. He had to walk everywhere and sleep outside in a makeshift bed. Soon his supplies started to diminish; it was time for him to head home.
“American citizens are being evacuated and I will be heading home … since my mission here is done,” Cantave said from Haiti.
Now back in the states, Cantave plans to continue his efforts – just from hundreds of miles away.