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Amid Rubble, Hope on the Rise in Haiti's Epicenter

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It's been 12 days since the January 12 earthquake unleashed its wrath, leveling much of this backward Caribbean economy. Yet amid the rubble in Leogane, hope is rising, touching the hearts of the visiting Xinhua reporters.

Departure to Leogane

Located some 29 km west of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, the small town of Leogane was hit even harder by the quake, with over 90 percent of its buildings flattened.

Crumbled houses, dead parents still buried underneath the debris -- that was the tragedy Ricardi Moreunel had to accept when rushing back from Port-au-Prince to his birthplace in the immediate aftermath of the devastating earthquake.

It has long been a forgotten place, naturally the most impoverished and the least developed part of the country, Moreunel told Xinhua reporters before they headed for the small town.

He said Leogane was tranquil and peaceful. Local people made their living by growing sugar cane. Their optimism and honesty about life and work have never been diminished by poverty.

Determined to rebuild his quake-ravaged country for the remainder of his life, he was convinced Leogane would be a land of happiness if given adequate surpport of funds and skills.

Devastation of a small town

Instead of trees and a bucolic scenery that could comfort the eyes, makeshift refugee camps are dotting the roadsides where Haitians are taking shelter from the heat and their troubled destiny.

Adults were chatting and cooking the food delivered as disaster relief, looking rather quiet. Kids were playing and laughing, without a single trace of horror.

Meeting reporters, they would never fail to greet them in their local tongue.

The town, according to UN assessment, is the most damaged place among all the affected areas in the earthquake. There, warped, demolished rocks and remains of houses are scattered all around the field. It looks like a deserted construction site.

In front of the collapsed houses, horses, goats and cows were still tied up, feeding on the grass sticking out through the cracks of ruins -- vestiges of vigor and a symbol of eternal hope.

"Where are you from? What are you bringing to us?" Upon hearing the engines rolling, some cute and beautifully dressed girls came up and asked the reporters.

The smiling faces of these girls gathering in front of their diminished hometown reflected neither anger nor sadness, but patience for help and hope.

Jeantilus Nelson, aged 19, used to be a college student majoring in telecommunications. He couldn't go back to study, for his school collapsed in the earthquake.

He said all that he and his schoolmates could do at the moment is to wait for international assistance to rebuild the campus. "I hope the government could get the school on its feet again so that I can get my diploma," said the young man.

He also expressed his wish to be a journalist, traveling around the world and letting Haitians learn more about the outside world.

Here and beyond

Gressier is another town not far from Leogane. The UN disaster relief personnel and US marines are handing out food and water to the local Haitians.

Since the earthquake struck on January 12, the international community has been responding to the suffering of the survivors in a timely manner. Right now, over 60 rescue teams are on the ground, lending a helping hand and delivering not only food, medicine and water, but also hope.

According to the UN staff, they would send out trucks loaded with goods whenever they found a refugee camp. Once everyone received the deliveries, they would start seeking their next stop.

When the young Mylrick Louis came to Gressier from Leogane for UN assistance along with many of his friends, he was asked to wait patiently as many more were also waiting to be delivered from hunger, thirst and pain.

As long as hope is on the way, patience might be a small price to pay. For in such an age of calamity, hope shall dispel the darkness and lead the Haitian people to a better day.

(Xinhua News Agency January 25, 2010)

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