Sunday marked the fourth anniversary of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, which left thousands of people dead and millions more homeless.
San Diegan Callie Himsl first visited Haiti one year after the earthquake. After that initial visit, she sold her belongings and moved there permanently in May 2011.
“I think Haiti is very resilient and the people are very strong and powerful,” Himsl said.
Himsl said living conditions have improved since the devastating earthquake.
“There’s a lot less tent cities now than there was a couple years ago,” she said.
She said grants have helped more people build permanent housing outside the Port-au-Prince capitol. There have also been infrastructure improvements, including to the airport, roads and sidewalks.
However, “there is definitely is an orphan crisis in Haiti,” said Himsl, who works in orphan prevention.
According to Himsl, of the 10 million people in Haiti, as many as 300,000 of them are orphans. Despite all the media attention on Haitian adoptions after the quake, Himsl said only 100 to 200 children are adopted in Haiti each year.
Further, many orphans aren’t “orphans” at all. Too poor to care for their families, many parents relinquish their children to orphanages so they can get food and schooling.
“Seventy percent of children in an orphanage have at least one living parent,” Himsl explained.
Himsl said she was drawn to Haiti’s community-based lifestyle, beautiful landscapes and perfect weather. She wants San Diegans to know there is more to Haiti than crime and poverty.
“There’s crime and poverty everywhere,” she said. “They’re very resilient people. There’s so much strength.”
Himsl said she plans to stay in the island nation indefinitely.
“Right now, I feel like my heart is in Haiti.”