Rodney Diverlus, 19, is currently a second-year Performance Dance student at Ryerson University. Rodney was born in Port-au-Prince Haiti, and immigrated to the United States when he was nine years old. Following a period of time in Florida, he moved with his family to Hamilton, where they currently reside. Many members of his extended family and friends still live in Haiti. During the first days of the earthquake aftermath he helped his parents scramble to find them. Here is his story in his own words.
Q: When did you hear about the quake and what was your initial reaction?
I received a frantic call from my parents that night explaining that something happened and they couldn't get through to anyone. Without details, I was confused. Haiti has a history of having natural disasters, and since it wasn't hurricane season, I was confused as to what it was. It wasn't until Wednesday during the day that I got a full extent of the catastrophe
Q: What were the first steps you took to find your loved ones?
My parents led the tasks of finding my family members. I am a full-time university student and it was hard for me to really focus on everything I had to, on top of constantly calling folks back home. I don't think people understand how hard it is to try and locate dozens of family members. From grandparents, to uncles, to aunts, to first, second and third cousins, to family friends, to past co-workers, my parents took on the daunting task of trying to find dozens of past connections.
Q: Are you facing any problems in finding them or in getting them to safety? Have you spoken to the embassy? Are you having visa problems? What has immigration said?
Over time more news is trickling in. There are still many that are missing, especially the ones that lived in Carrefour (where the earthquake hit directly), but for the first two days, no news came in at all. Soon after that, I received hourly updates on the progress of the search and rescue. We are now looking into the process of bringing some family members here, but of course the priority is to get their aid and care back home.
Q: What do you think about the relief efforts so far? Should Canada be doing more?
I am proud to see ordinary Canadians step up to the challenge. In solidarity with the Haitian people, the relief efforts have taken a grassroots approach. This is fantastic to see because it ensures that ordinary Canadians are engaged in the issue and that awareness and care is built around the issue. An example is on our campus, where over $28,000 was raised in less than a week, just by bucket donations and reaching out to the campus community. I think the important thing for Canadians to remember is that, even after the story fades out in the front pages of the media, there are still thousands upon thousands of Haitian folks who are still going to need short-term and long-term aid.
Q: What is your community doing to help the cause?
I am very involved with the Ryerson Students' Union, and soon after the earthquake, emergency meetings were scheduled to discuss relief efforts. A concert was planned for Wednesday, Jan. 13, the day after the earthquake, and in less than 24 hours, media was contacted, promotion was increased, and the nature of the event changed to be a benefit concert. The day following, dozens of volunteers took to the streets and canvassed the campus, speaking and engaging thousands of students and soliciting donations. It was important for us to stress that every little bit counted, and, since students are traditionally in a lower socioeconomic bracket, it was important to empower them to donate without shame. In less than a week, over $28,000 was raised in the campus alone. As of now, followup events and fundraisers are in the planning stages.