Angie Channing travelled to Haiti with the British Red Cross. In this guest post, she describes her journey to see how the money so generously donated by the public is being put to use in the country
Today marks the six month anniversary of the Haiti earthquake and I can hardly believe that just a few weeks ago I was there, witnessing both the utter devastation and the inspiring resilience of survivors with my own eyes.
I can still feel the shock I felt when first faced with the crumbling ruins of the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, which was pretty much razed to the ground.
Of course, like everyone else, I’d watched in horror as the extent of the disaster unfolded on the news back in January. But there was a specific moment when I knew I had to do something about it.
I saw a photo of a little boy being rescued from the rubble and it really touched me. I have three children myself and when I thought about how that little boy was going to survive amidst all that destruction I realised I had to start fundraising.
Luckily, because I work for Tesco, which has an emergency response partnership with the British Red Cross, I was able to fundraise at work. I was so proud of the way everyone pitched in and after a week we’d raised £6,500.
But it came as a complete surprise when months later, I received a phone call from the Red Cross inviting me to visit Haiti to mark the six-month anniversary and see for myself how the funds we’d raised were helping people.
Although I was a bit nervous – I’d never been further than Newquay on my own before! – I realised it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
So I hugged my kids goodbye and flew out to Haiti. I tried to prepare myself for what I would see but I don’t think it’s something you can ever really prepare for.
Outside the airport, families lived by the side of the road in shacks made from material and bits of broken buildings. I’d never seen poverty like this before.
I also got to visit some of the makeshift camps, such as La Piste, where around 40,000 people are crammed together living in tents or makeshift homes made of tarpaulin and bits of wood.
During the visit I was shown how the Red Cross has been using funds to improve the dire sanitation situation for those living in the crowded camps.
It felt really good to find out more about the difference the money we’d raised was making. So far, the Red Cross has provided medical treatment for 95,000 people and vaccinated more than 150,000 against measles, diphtheria and rubella. Everyday, it transports 2.4 million litres of clean water to 94 different sites across Port-au-Prince, and has provided 120,000 families – almost 600,000 people – with emergency shelter material.
When I flew home, I couldn’t stop thinking about the things I had seen.
From talking to people I’d found out how the desperate situation weighed on them so heavily. So many people’s livelihoods have been wiped out and all they want is the opportunity to work.
But despite the hard conditions in the camps there was still a real sense of community – I remember the kids playing hopscotch in the dust and when a Red Cross van came around playing music everyone was eager to dance and have fun.
The Haitian people show such courage and strength when many of us would feel like giving up. I am truly in awe.
Angie will be on This Morning talking about her visit to Haiti on Monday 12 July at 11.05