On January 12th, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck beneath Port-au-Prince Haiti; the initial quake was followed by twelve aftershocks each greater than 5.0 in magnitude. Nearly every structure in the vicinity collapsed into rubble. Recovery efforts began immediately to rescue the millions of people displaced and the thousands who were feared dead. Disaster relief organizations from all over the world descended on Haiti to provide aid.
One particular woman, Jocelyn Jean Baptist, a neonatal nurse who is originally from Haiti but now resides in the US decided she was going to find a way to help. With twenty years of nursing experience, she knew she could be of some service. She volunteered through International Medical Corps, a global, non-profit organization established by volunteer doctors and nurses dedicated to saving lives and relieving suffering. Baptist was able to return to her homeland and provide emergency medical care to survivors.
inTravel: You are originally from Haiti, how long did you live there?
Jocelyn: I was born and raised in a rural area of Haiti called Saint Jean Dusud. I attended college and law school in Haiti as well.
inTravel: Why did you decide to move to the US?
Jocelyn: I moved to the US in 1980, basically because my mother told me to. (Laughs) She wanted me to further my education in the US, so I began attending a nursing school in Long Island, NY.
inTravel: When you heard there was an earthquake in Haiti, what was your initial reaction?
Jocelyn: First, I wanted to make sure everyone in my family was safe. Surprisingly, I was able to find out pretty quickly that my immediate family was okay, but it took about two weeks to confirm that everyone in my extended family had also survived. It was during that time I realized I had to go to Haiti. In my heart, I just knew deep down it was where I needed to be.
inTravel: How did you find out about the International Medical Corps?
Jocelyn: It was actually my brother that helped me get involved with them. He was talking to someone who worked there and mentioned how much I wanted to go to Haiti and that with my background in medicine I would surely be an asset to their rescue team stationed there.
My application was processed and everything went through very quickly. They booked all my arrangements and before I knew it I was back in Haiti for the first time in thirteen years. The International Medical Corps provided all transportation, security, hotel, food as well as a small stipend. They truly are a great organization; I’m hopeful I’ll get the chance to work with them again soon.
inTravel: Can you describe the destruction you saw when you arrived?
Jocelyn: There were cars buried underneath rubble and debris all over the streets. Everywhere you looked there were people suffering. Almost all the houses and buildings were now just piles of rubble. The news footage shown in the US failed to capture the severity of the situation. I think to fully comprehend the scope of what had just happened, you needed to see it first-hand.
inTravel: If most of the buildings and houses were destroyed, where were people living?
Jocelyn: Mostly in tents, either real tents or make-shift tents. Mother Nature seems to be adding insult to injury because their rainy season is just around the corner.
There are still some buildings and houses standing, but people won’t go in them due to their questionable structural integrity. Also, any house still standing is covered in visible cracks and looking like it might fall down at any moment.