From Haiti with love: volunteering that crosses frontiers

تم النشر: 15 ديسمبر 2014 15:19 CET

By Enrique Jair Guevara, IFRC

A year ago, I found myself on the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, participating in some field school training offered by the Red Cross. It was there I met three people who risk their lives and sacrifice their time to serve the most vulnerable. I have the honour to share their stories.

Abdias Berrouet

One of the first people I met was Abdias Berrouet who migrated from Haiti to the Dominican Republic in 2007 in search of better educational opportunities, opportunities to help others and ultimately become a volunteer at the Dominican Red Cross. In 2013 when I met Abdias he was studying medicine and had already obtained diplomas in international cooperation and occupational health.

I found it curious and inspiring to see a Haitian volunteering at a National Society in a country not his own. But Abdias has never doubted his dedication and his calling to be a humanitarian. When I asked him how often he went back home, he quickly responded that in the six years that he has living in Dominican Republic he has only returned to Haiti once, on what he explained was a self-motivated humanitarian mission. “I spend my free time helping people who need it, and I dedicate it to the Dominican Red Cross and to the vulnerable people,” he said.

To the question of how it has felt being a Haitian working in the Dominican Red Cross Abdias said: “My presence in the Dominican Red Cross is like if I was in my family, everyone worries about me, they advise me and are always on my side. For me, this is a living example that the movement of the Red Cross goes further than any borders of race, religion or culture. In a phrase: we are one.

Abdias who had worked on the response to the 2010 earthquake for three months, captured my attention saying he wanted to share a message with others. His words are clear and simple; “Sometimes we have the will to help but we don’t know how. The Red Cross teaches us to help, in what way and time, establishes rules to not violate human rights that in turn make our help more effective. I think that people who want to help, who have the will to help people should approach their National Society in any part of the world. It doesn’t matter if we are in Syria or in America wherever we are, the Red Cross and Red Crescent is the same. It is the same motto saving lives and changing minds.”

Evelyn Loppe

Evelyn Loppe is another volunteer which shares a similar story. Her mother still lives in Haiti but she is accompanied by her 8- and 12-year-old daughters in the Dominican Republic. When asked about her volunteering Evelyn smiled and told me that for her this isn’t work, it is a learning experience. She feels that when she gives her time to the Red Cross, the reward is never materialistic but it is the experience. A year after meeting her I still remember the last thing she told me during our conversation “When my children grow I will take them to be volunteers in the Red Cross.”

Ricardo Pierre

Lastly, I was able to meet Ricardo Pierre, another smiling Haitian face, among the volunteers of the Dominican Red Cross. Ricardo also has family who reside in Haiti, an 8-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl. Ricardo had recently returned to the Dominican Republic after offering his services to support the response operation in Jeremi, Haiti in wake of hurricane Sandy.

With a big smile he told me he felt 100 per cent at ease in the Dominican Red Cross, and that he feels he is in his country. Considering his more than 23 years of experience as volunteer I asked how he inspires new volunteers. “Red Cross is life, in the Red Cross we don’t fight, we are all here to learn and help those most vulnerable, today it may be someone else, but tomorrow it could be my family, and we all must contribute with our grain of sand.”

Volunteers such as Abdias, Evelyn and Ricardo are a perfect example of our Fundamental Principles in action.

For me, it’s hard to imagine but easy to admire the fact that these three people left their homes in search of a opportunities and ended up finding their vocation in helping others. This is the principle of humanity perfectly expressed through experience.

I will also be forever enchanted by the fact that people with Haitian origins living outside their country, imbued with humanitarian spirit can become part of an idea, a Movement united across the world.