Nearly 1 ½ years after a 7.0 earthquake ravaged portions of Haiti, the island nation continues to struggle.
“They have a 70 percent unemployment rate,” said Mark Stansberry, an Edmond businessman who recently visited Haiti. “There's 70 percent illiteracy. Of course, they're suffering from cholera, malaria and other diseases. The average life expectancy for a man is 29. For a woman, it's 30.”
Stansberry is the chairman of People to People International, a Kansas City-based nonprofit. He went to Haiti on June 15 to deliver 2,500 school supply kits as part of an expansion of Operation International Children.
Port-au-Prince, the capital city, looks desolate and broken, Stansberry said. The earthquake killed hundreds of thousands and left more than 1.5 million homeless. Power remains unreliable. Driving paths have been cleared of rubble, but only barely. Piles of broken concrete and garbage grow alongside the streets.
He saw long lines of people waiting to get medical help at an American field hospital.
“There are 30 doctors and nurses serving hundreds each day,” he said. “I think the record the day before I got there was 1,700 patients in a single day.”
All of this is happening 600 to 700 miles off the Florida coast — much closer to the U.S. than Oklahoma City is to Las Vegas.
Despite the poverty and misery, Stansberry said, there is room for some small measure of optimism.
“What gave me hope visiting the schools,” he said, “is these children would clap and smile at receiving the kits. Even though some are troubled, there's hope and someone who believes in them. ... These children may be future doctors, engineers and teachers, people with skills who can help their country.”
About the program
People to People was created by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 “to promote international understanding and friendship through educational, cultural and humanitarian activities,” according to a news release.