Cornell University

February 2 2010

Hope for Haiti

Future holds a "new chapter," says student who witnessed earthquake

Kristina Francillon '11 began an internship in Switzerland Monday, three weeks after being surrounded by chaos in Port-au-Prince.

"For a moment, I thought it was the end of the world," said Francillon, who was in her grandmother’s home when the earthquake hit.

No one in her family was hurt, Francillon said.  Outside, though, "There was debris and destruction everywhere, it was surreal."

Francillon, who moved at age 15 from Port-au-Prince to the United States, was in Port-au-Prince during winter break for an internship at the Confédération des Travailleurs Haitiens, an association of Haitian unions.

The earthquake has stunned Haitians, Francillon said. "Every Haitian is hurting emotionally.  Everyone has lost someone or some thing.  Everybody seems a little lost."

Several days after the catastrophe, Francillon returned to her Miami home aboard a U.S. Air Force jet with her grandmother, whose home is damaged beyond repair. 

Despite the magnitude of the tragedy and many years of rebuilding ahead, Francillon foresees a "new chapter" for Haiti.

Post earthquake rebuilding, she said, is an opportunity for positive change in the country.

Although some people took advantage of the situation by selling food and water at exorbitant prices, most people committed themselves to the relief work, said Francillon, who hopes to visit Haiti this summer.

This semester, Francillon is an intern at the International Labour Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, through the. ILR Credit Internship Program.