Seniors tell tales from Haiti
When news of Haiti's Jan. 12 earthquake reached the United States, members of the College immediately worried for the safety of Yanica Faustin '10 and Jessica Frick '10, two Colby students spending their JanPlan in Haiti.
Faustin and Frick arrived in Haiti on Jan. 13 with the intention of spending the month relaxing with Faustin's father and extended family in the country's capital, Port-au-Prince. Their vacation was cut short, however, when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the developing country.
The day began normally when the two students visited Faustin's godmother and mother's cousin. "Then later we were driving around aimlessly trying to find my brother's friend's house, which had a pool," Faustin said. Suddenly Faustin's brother seemed "to shake and bob up and down. The car was still moving on its own," she said, "and my brother yelled to get out of the car."
While seeking refuge, the group ran into a dust cloud. "People were coming at us with blood on their faces and screaming," Faustin said. They sought an alternative path to Faustin's family's house. Her brother knew the area and "evaluated which route would be the safest."
In the aftermath of the earthquake, Frick and Faustin were eager to aid in relief efforts, but "there wasn't really much we could do," Frick said. "At first we were asking to help get people out of buildings," Frick recalled, but they were not allowed to enter collapsed structures.
"The women [in my family] cooked...but we didn't really know how to do that," Faustin said. "So we played with the kids a lot."
Above all, they tried to approach the days following the disaster with a "sense of normalcy," according to Frick. "We talked about what we were going to do when we got back to Colby," Faustin said.
The students' families were in agony while waiting for confirmation of their safety. On Jan. 13, Faustin was able to make brief contact with her mother, who lives in New York City. "My brother's friend called my mom, and my mom called Jessie's parents," Faustin said. In this manner, news finally reached the College of the seniors' safety.
Faustin and Frick remained in Haiti until Jan. 15. They left Faustin's father's house, which was standing despite the earthquake, at 5 a.m. and headed toward the United States Embassy in Port-au-Prince. "The Embassy people didn't know anything. They didn't help us contact our families at all," Frick said.
The students waited at the Embassy for the greater part of the morning. "The first round [of people] that left were elderly and people with kids," Faustin said. Frick and Faustin were evacuated with the next group at 10 a.m., and they flew into Florida on a military cargo plane.
Frick, an Eddington, Maine native, said that in the hours following the earthquake her family "tried to go about their days normally so they didn't have to think about it all the time."
Although they learned of Frick's safety from Faustin's mother, Frick was unable to call home until she arrived in Florida.
When Frick's plane landed at the Bangor International Airport, a crowd of her family members greeted her. "There was a huge group hug and they were taking pictures," Frick said. "They were just so relieved."
For two students intending to frequent the beach, visit museums and go to nightclubs during JanPlan, Faustin and Frick had a more memorable experience than they bargained for. "We never made it to a beach or any body of water....We didn't get to do everything we wanted," Faustin said. But they did survive the tragedy and were thrilled to return to the United States.
Faustin, a biology and ethical genetics double major, was excited to return to the College for her last semester. "That first night [after the earthquake] I thought I was [never] going to see Colby again, so it's really weird that I'm here," Faustin said.
After witnessing such devastation in Haiti, coming back was not easy for the students. They were grateful to have each other as best friends and roommates upon their return to the Hill. "I thought, 'At least someone here has some type of understanding of what I went through,'" Faustin said.
The College's relief efforts have impressed the survivors of the tragedy. "I'm really proud of Colby, and we're just pouring our energy into that," Faustin said.
Frick, a psychology and neuroscience double major, is astounded that the College "has raised so much already and [people] are even donating clothing."
On Feb. 12, the Colby College Haitian Relief Effort leaders received a generous offer from an anonymous alumni couple: they were willing to match the first $25,000 that the College raised.
At press time, the students, faculty and staff of the College have raised approximately $20,000 and continue to strive toward this goal.
Frick and Faustin hope to use their experience to increase awareness and help raise more funding for Haiti. "We didn't go through that for nothing," Frick said.
"We survived," Faustin said, "and now there's a sense of purpose."