A Mother, A Daughter and A Bright Green Scarf


Jimani, Dominican Republic — As we view the shocking images from Japan of yet another earthquake disaster, with the destruction, the thousands of dead and missing and the countless refugees, I thought back a year ago to a similar scene in Haiti:

In the choking caliche dust , shimmering heat and gray monochromes of the post-earthquake refugee camp just over the border from Haiti, it was actually the cheerfully bright green head scarves that caught my eye and drew me to the two Haitian women.  They turned out to be a mother and daughter, survivors of the earthquake that had devastated Haiti just a few days before.

The Good Samaritan compound about a kilometer across the border in Jimani, Dominican Republic, had been pressed into service as an emergency makeshift hospital and temporary camp.  I was there as part of a missionary medical team that went in a few days after the January 12, 2010 earthquake.

The earthquake killed more than 200,000, injured countless thousands and left millions homeless.  In our little camp alone, there were several hundred Haitians living in empty rooms of an unfinished orphanage, on patios, in tents, in cardboard lean-tos and on the ground.  Virtually all of them had lost everything – certainly their home and possessions and usually their friends and family members.  Most had devastating and very visible injuries; amputations and crushed bones were the most common sight.  The Dominican government only allowed seriously injured and immediate family into the medical camp, so everyone had to have a medical reason to be there.

The mother and daughter with the green head scarves were an enigma. Other than the small circular scrape on her cheek, the beautiful young daughter had no visible injury.  Her injuries were likely internal – literally and figuratively.  But what I remember most was the hopeless stare on the young woman’s face.  She never changed her expression in the whole week I was there.  The mother, as you can see in the photo, always kept a watchful eye on her daughter, never leaving her side.

They agreed to be photographed, but had nothing else to say. And it wasn’t just the language barrier that kept us separated.

Maybe the young woman’s stare said all that needed to be said.