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Alumna lends helping hand

Jan. 20, 2010

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Associated Press
An injured youth is attended by medics, Tuesday, in a field hospital at the Jordanian battalion's base in Port-au-Prince. The U.N. Security Council approved extra troops and police officers to beef up security in Haiti and ensure that desperately needed aid gets to victims.

By Bethany Moore
Staff Writer

Although the 7.0 magnitude earthquake and its aftershocks have finished, those left in the wake of chaos and rising death counts in Haiti are only beginning to comprehend the effects.

"I feel like I am crazy. I thought the floor was shaking and had a little panic attack. I'm OK now, but I keep shaking because I think the ground is," said alumna Megan Rapp in an e-mail to the Lariat.

Rapp is a current Columbia University graduate student and was in Port-au-Prince working with her university's research team when the earthquake struck.

"At first we didn't realize what had just happened," Rapp said. "We then got up and raced down to the street to see if we could help. There were people running, children screaming, walls had fallen over, power lines were down and the sky was gray with dust."

Despite having no prior medical knowledge, Rapp said she and her team worked the next few days in the United Nations infirmary, "simply trying to help in anyway possible."

"The little girl I was with was so scared, yet so sweet," Rapp she wrote. "I was just trying to make her laugh and smile. I told her that she was a princess and that princesses can do anything they want. This made her laugh, and she asked me if she could live in a palace. I said that was definitely possible! All princesses get to live in palaces."

With such serious medical injuries and few doctors, Rapp said some of the children she helped died overnight, but she hopes more relief aid can get them the attention they need before it's too late.

After a couple of days in the infirmary, Rapp said the team emerged to find a more disturbing site since immediately after the earthquake.

"They said the ride was incredible," Rapp said. "Dead bodies in the street, fights and violence beginning, looting of stores, chaos and tension brewing. My professor said the streets remind her of Baghdad. Wow."

Rapp and her research team are now back in the U.S. after they were able to ride in a helicopter with the U.N. and said that she is just now starting to process all that has happened.

"The ice is slowly starting to melt as I let myself think about what just happened the past few days," Rapp said. "I've put up so many protective barriers and had to remain so calm and solid that I'm not quite sure yet how to process everything."

Beside the destruction of the earthquake, Haiti was already the most impoverished nation in the western hemisphere, according to the Economic and Social Council of the U.N.

Professor of Latin American studies Phillip Johnson said that this is a nation which lives on the edge of crisis at all times.

"This is a country with almost no resources," Johnson said. "Not many years ago it was struggling so much they had to eat dirt to stay alive."

Jimmy Dorrell, executive director of Mission Waco has been taking students, doctors, teachers and others on mission trips to Haiti for 20 years, working to ensure clean water, a school and other needs in the village of Ferrier.

Dorrell said the whole country was in a difficult state far before the earthquake. However, the attention it's receiving could finally cause others to realize the immense problems this country is living with.

"The worst disease is apathy," Dorrell said. "What needs to happen is for Haiti to become globalized enough where people use them for labor for businesses because there is none. This isn't a short-term fix and there have been so many failed projects started there over the years. Hopefully this will give Haiti the focus and attention it needs."

Dorrell said that Ferrier did not directly feel the impact of the earthquake, however, it has experienced major flooding as an after effect of the earthquake.

Students have many opportunities to help out Haiti, which include the Mission Waco mission trips to Haiti in the spring. Students can also donate to different Baylor departments that are fundraising and the group Rapp is working with, Partners in Health, at www.pih.org.