Haiti: Longing for loved ones
Monday, January 25, 2010 | 12:32 PM ET
At the age of 17, Pierre Clemence-Fritz left Haiti and his only sister, Gloria Sainvil, to come to Canada in search of more opportunities. He is now 25 and working for Aditya Birla Minacs, an outsourcing solutions company. He sends money to support Gloria, 20, and hopes that one day he can bring her to Canada. They share a unique relationship, as Pierre is Gloria’s last remaining blood relative and he is the only family she has. News of the earthquake has been a nightmare for him. Here is his story in his own words.
Q: When did you hear about the earthquake and when did you hear about your sister's whereabouts?
Well, the Monday before I was feeling off. I started feeling shaky for no reason. I had a bad feeling that something was going to happen to my sister. So, I called my brother and told him about it. The next day he sent me a text and said there was an earthquake. I said, "No there wasn't. You're lying and it's not funny." But then my supervisor came to me and told me "Yes, it's true." I couldn't breathe. I was so scared I couldn’t focus, so I asked my supervisor if I could leave and she let me go.
Pierre Clemence-Fritz’s sister in Haiti, Gloria Sainvil, is 20.
Q: What were the first steps you took to find your sister?
After I left work my first step was to try calling her. Everybody at work was giving me long-distance cards, even one guy that I didn’t know. I took the next few days off work and tried everything I could. I called the embassy and Red Cross, but, nothing. I tried to call her too, but there was nothing either. Finally on Friday I decided I had to go back to work just to distract myself.
One guy called in because he had been trying to sending a Western Union money transfer to his family because somebody had died. The company had frozen the transfer, though, because they said it looked suspicious. I told him "No problem sir, I can help you release the funds." After I did that, he asked if there was anything he could help me with, so I told him about my sister and he said he would call me by the end of the day. I heard nothing.
I worked again on Saturday, and around 10 a.m. my phone rang and I thought it was going to be this guy. It was my sister! I jumped so hard out of my chair that I bashed my knees off the desk and hurt myself.
She told me she knew I wouldn’t forget about her and she was so happy to hear from me. She had survived the earthquake but was injured, and she got hurt again during one of the aftershocks. She wouldn’t tell me how bad, because she didn’t want me to worry.
So I told her, "As long as I can hear your voice, I will be OK. I’ll fight for you to come here," and I’ve been trying ever since. I send her money through Western Union and I put minutes on her phone so she can call me.
Q: Have you encountered any problems getting her to safety?
As soon as I heard from her I started working on bringing her here so I could take care of her. I have a good job, you know? I work six days a week and the only thing in the world I want is for her to be with me here, because I can take care of her.
I talked to immigration and the lady told me I had to send all of my information in – my contact information and a letter showing how much I make a year. So I did, but then she told me she could only come as a visitor, I couldn’t be her guardian.
I went all the way to Montreal, Quebec, and waited in line. There were so many people, there had to be more than 1,000 just standing in line. I drove there and waited all that time for nothing.
I asked the immigration people, 'Why? I have a good job I can take care of her, why do you let all the babies in, but not my sister?’ She said it had to do with her age. My sister is 20 years old now. But they still haven’t sent help to the area where she is – near Delmas – and she needs my help.
She is only about 30 minutes from the airport there, you can even walk it and it doesn’t take long. The nearest Western Union to them is like two hours away, and they don’t have any food or water. So I have to keep sending them money, but it’s hard you know, because it’s so far away for them. She can’t really do much right now because, like I said, her feet are injured.
I feel lied to, you know? On the TV they were saying that they would open the borders and they would let people in, but that isn’t true. Not for me. Why? I work six days a week, I showed them my papers, I can afford to have her here.
I really feel for everybody that has been hurt by this, I do. But, right now, I have to take care of my own, and I just want my sister to come here. I don’t understand why they won’t let me. I feel like they lied to me.
Q: What do you think of the relief efforts so far?
It’s good that they are sending relief, you know, lots of people are hurt. But they haven’t done anything for me. Where my relatives are, they haven’t received anything: no food, no water, doctors, nothing. They live so close to the airport, and it would be so easy to get them help.
I feel sorry for everyone else too and if I could adopt I would. But, I only have one person. I want my sister first.
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