Dominion of New York


January 12, 2012

Faces of the Recovery: 4 Haitian Elders Talk about Life After the Quake

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Written by: Kelly Virella


he international aid organization Helpage published 25 photos and interviews with its elderly clients through its Flickr account. Here are 4 particularly poignant ones.

3. Renette Neptune

Picture 1 of 4

Renette Neptune, 76, Camp Tabarre, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

January 11, 2011
Photo by Frederic Dupoux/ HelpAge International 2011

Ms. Neptune lives in a tent with two of her eight grandchildren for whom she is the primary carer. The tent has a tiny garden at the back where she can grow corn. She used to live in La Plaine, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, but her home was destroyed by the earthquake.

“I was cooking outside when the earthquake began. I felt the earth move, looked up and saw my house falling to the ground. There was nobody inside, Thank Jesus.

“I slept on the street for a week and because of the cold nights sleeping outside, I now have pain in my legs and hip.

“A friend from my church told me that there was an empty field where people were putting up tents so I cam here and built a shelter, with help from friends and neighbours.

“Before the earthquake, I used to sell food and spices but I lost it all in the quake.

“I’m not happy to live here but God wants it so I must endure it all. Everyone here is in the same condition so I cannot complain. I was stressed after the earthquake for about a month, but it has reduced and I feel much better now.

“But I am still hypertensive and have pain in my body. I cannot really carry heavy things anymore. I take a lot of medicine.

“I regularly go to the doctor to get medication. Some of its free but not all.

“In around May or June an assessment team from HelpAge came to the camp and put me on their register for a cash grant.

“I received $50 and I used it to buy things to sell for my business. Now I have a shop outside my tent.

“Some days I sell things, some days I don’t. I like having my own business as it means I can go as I please.

“And I earn enough money to feed me and my two grandchildren, and to buy them school books. I am strict with them so they don’t give me any trouble really.

“Their mother and father are separated but their father sends money for the children’s school fees.

“They don’t go to a good school though which makes me sad. I don’t have anything to leave them so I would like to leave them a good education if I could.

“In the mornings I get the children ready for school and feed them, then I sit here and wait for people to come and buy from me. I got to church every Sunday.

“The home carers from HelpAge come to visit me often as they don’t live far from me.

“They come to talk and see if I need anything, or if I need anything I can go to them.

“I feel secure here. God gives me security first, and after that everyone around here keeps watch over everyone else.

“I’m glad HelpAge came to see me. I was waiting for them.”

About the Author

Kelly Virella
Kelly Virella lives in an East Harlem walk-up with her husband, her bicycle and her books. She's worked as a journalist for 11 years and started this website during the summer of 2011. She fell in love with New York City during her first visit here as a 16-year-old and finally made good on her promise to move here in April 2010.


New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, left to right. Photo courtesy of Flickr/Azipaybarah