PORT-AU-PRINCEÃ¢â‚¬” It’s not the words you recall after a major tragedy, it’s the vivid image that stays etched in your memory. Even more rare and magical is the recording eye that sees hope where others see hell. Spirits have been boosted by the work of such a magic eye. Among the images of hopelessness, award-winning photographer Paul Jeffrey sees hope, energy and dignity.
Paul Jeffrey has been in Haiti shooting for the ACT Alliance. His photos have appeared in newspapers all over the world, and international photo bureaus like Associated Press and Agence France Presse have distributed his images from Port-au-Prince worldwide.
Paul Jeffrey has been all over – to DR Congo, Darfur and to the tsunami-hit countries. He has seen the whole smorgasbord of disasters but always returns from the field with photos that are different.
This time the photo missionary has again moved people’s hearts.
In places like Haiti, the human spirit shines through given the slightest chance. Paul Jeffrey’s Haiti photos are a vivid reminder that the Haitian people don’t want to be victims. The images of life amongst the ruins of Port-au-Prince that have moved people are visions of normal life asserting itself amongst the rubble.
A toddler has a bath, another her teeth brushed. Boys make kites from rubbish and fly them in the ruins. A young girl gets her hair done by mum. Mock street names are scrawled on alleyways between tents. Life in all its mundane splendor goes on.
Paul Jeffrey reported soon after arriving in Port-au-Prince that he had been moved by the resilience of the long suffering Haitian people, now faced with yet another massive disaster.
“Not having had a real opportunity to grieve their dead, and still panicked by rumbling aftershocks, women and men across the city are nonetheless setting up temporary shelters in parks and open spaces, clearing away debris, struggling to restart their small businesses and market sales, and caring for their children, and those who didn’t survive,” Paul Jeffrey say. “They are used to struggle, and so life goes on.”
One of the many untold facts about the post earthquake relief work in Haiti has been that once aid and development teams rebuild their teams on the ground it will simply be a case of “business as usual” rather than starting from scratch.
Haiti was shattered even before the earthquake. Non government organizations were providing 70 percent of healthcare in rural areas and 80% of public services. ACT has been able to build quickly on this existing base.
A water purification system has been bought from Norway to provide 10,000 Haitians clean drinking water. More equipment has been sent to homeless families in Jacmel on Haiti’s southern coast where ACT workers are handing out four million water purification tablets, as well as jerry cans, blankets and enough healthcare kits to last 10,000 people three months.
Paul Jeffrey was there during the distributions and raised his camera. But through his lenses we saw more than brave emergency workers. We saw an energetic population working hard to create a new life on top of the ruins. People smile. And Paul keeps their dignity.