Aug 10, 2010 Doug Campbell Uncategorized
Sethaly Beyer knows the value of doing good for others, and she has taken that passion across the globe — traveling to Sumatra last January and, in June, earthquake-rattled Haiti.
“It was the most moving and inspirational experience of my life and I am planning on returning in the fall,” said Beyer, a class of 2003 Cazenovia High School graduate.
Beyer spent four weeks in Haiti working with Hands On Disaster Response. She spent the majority of those four weeks working on rubble removal — clearing away the remains of houses that had been sitting in ruins for five months after a devastating earthquake struck the impoverished island last January.
The program provided food six days a week as well as bunks for sleeping. In exchange, volunteers spent six days a week working. Volunteers also had to pay their own airfare.
Beyer first became involved with Hands On Disaster Response last January, when she helped in the disaster relief effort in Sumatra after a September 2009 earthquake. That meant she saw some familiar faces in Haiti.
“I knew people that would be there, kind of a group of ‘disaster chasers,'” she said. “You see some of the same people over and over.”
It was difficult to describe the experience, Beyer said. She was very impressed by those affected by the disaster and those volunteers trying to make a difference.
“Nobody complains — the resilience is so amazing. It should be a sad place but it’s not like that at all,” she said.
Beyer is finishing her undergraduate studies at City College of New York. She is working on her final thesis, which will focus on her work in Haiti.
Beyer drafted an e-mail during her stay in Haiti that she hoped would express the tragedy that she had been seeing on a day to day basis.
“No one should have to go through what these people go through,” she said. “I have learned that life is unfair and I have [gained] a new perspective as to what a difficult time really is.”
Volunteers had to tell thirsty children that they couldn’t give them water; she saw large families living in tents outside their flattened homes; she saw mothers with malnourished babies; she heard rioters hoping to find jobs but chased away by United Nations police; and she talked to orphans who would ask to be brought back to the United States with the volunteers.
Beyer was positive about the experience overall, but her letter expressed the magnitude of the project.
“What’s more frustrating is feeling like you aren’t really [making] a sustainable difference,” she said. “[There] is no definite starting point where everything needs to change, nor will there be a significant change in the next decade.”
Beyer related several stories she had heard, either firsthand or through volunteers, that represented everyone’s struggles. One volunteer spoke with a driver, asking where he lived and where his family was from.
“The driver then pulled out individual photos from his visor of his wife and children’s dead bodies that he pulled from his collapsed home,” Beyer said. “He was not home when the earthquake hit, but when he returned, he found [his] whole family dead. He is now making money [as] our driver and lives in both Leogane and Port of Prince — but he lost everything in his home, including his loved ones.”
At the end of her e-mail, Beyer said that while there were sad stories, the trip was still an uplifting one.
“I do not want to paint a sad picture of Haiti because it is not sad place,” Beyer said. “It is so beautiful [a] place, full of community and unity, yet restrained by many uncontrollable obstacles. It is a hidden paradise that needs a way out.”
Beyer will return this fall to further her contribution to the large and complicated disaster relief effort.