It’s a grim anniversary, and for those, like Gaël Stephenson Chancy, who had to live through the Haiti earthquake, some memories are hard to get rid of.
“They had piled up the dead and it was really, really hard,” he told Global News while attending the TOHU arts centre.
He was 12 at the time and was forced to grow up quickly by protecting his younger cousins from the horror.
“I was asked to hide their eyes while we were driving,” he recalls.
Chancy is among those taking part in the two-day commemoration events at the centre to mark the 10th anniversary of the quake.
Marjorie Villefranche runs La Maison d’Haiti, which organized the event.
“It’s important to think about the future of Haiti, the independence of Haiti and the links we are having with NGOs,” she explained. “Are we still independent or are we dependent of the NGOs?”
The damage was catastrophic. Up to 300,000 people died, hundreds of thousands were injured and more than one million were left homeless.
Now, a decade later, Haitians say reconstruction is still lagging. Critics say one reason is that the people who were directly affected weren’t consulted enough.
“The big NGOs, they took decisions without asking the population,” Villefranche said. “They didn’t ask, ‘what is your need?'”
“It just felt like people came in with their own idea of what was going on without actually being there.”
Villefranche also pointed out that there is much expertise in Haiti, so the challenge now is to harness that potential.
“The next step, I think, is the strengthening of the civil society,” she stressed, “because I don’t think there is any hope if the civil society isn’t very active.”
She thinks partnerships should be a priority now, so Haitian and non-Haitian groups are both present at the TOHU to connect and discuss the best approaches.
Among them are representatives from Lèt Agogo, a Haitian company that sells dairy products.
According to him, they plan to expand their brand into the Quebec market, using Quebec milk, and send the revenue to further help Haitian farmers.
There are NGOs at TOHU as well. They see their expertise as vital.
“They’ve built their knowledge in crisis response and international development too,” according to Aurore Dupain, Project Manager for the KANPE Foundation, a group that helps vulnerable Haitians towards financial autonomy. It was co-founded by Quebec MNA Dominique Anglade, who is also of Haitian origin.
Those attending the event hope that Haitians will now get the support they need to empower themselves.