The country of Haiti, a short hour and a half plane trip from the U.S., was hit by a massive earthquake in January, 2010, that killed between 46,000 and 86,000 Haitians, according to recently revised figures. Several hundred thousand remain in patchwork tent cities in and around the capital now, nearly 4 years later, complicated by no infrastructure, 85% unemployment, no real industry or raw materials, a dysfunctional government, and alleged corruption throughout the country. In 2012, Dr. Steven L. Smith from the Grand Valley School of Social Work, spent his sabbatical working in Haiti among some of the many tent cities in Port-au-Prince, and also worked in a private orphanage, and a new school for restavek (indentured servant) children built through the missionary efforts of several U.S. citizens. Part of his work included a documentary photographic essay of the children and family situations he encountered during his time there. Dr. Smith expected, and found, a living environment which for many included horrible shelter and sanitary conditions, inadequate food, water, medical and psychological care, and a non-functioning economy. However, many children not only survived, but thrived in conditions that are far more brutal than some of the worst poverty in the United States. These Haitian children, mostly living a meager daily existence without regular clean water and sporadic food consisting of mostly beans and rice, were happy, hopeful and created a sense of normalcy amidst the chaos that consumed the adults. This photo essay intersperses stories of tragedy with photographs of these children, in a surprising picture of surprising hope amidst the rubble.
Art Gallery, 616-331-2563