Wednesday marked the first anniversary of the disaster that killed over 230,000 in Haiti, but the days that followed highlighted the resilience of the Haitian people whose lives all changed in a mere 35 seconds. Those, like Jardonna Constant of Delma 85 Port Au Prince, had to pick up the pieces of their lives, which just like the ground below their feet, had been shattered by the earthquake.
"I thought it was the end of the road because I learned from my social science class that the world would come to an end, so I thought it was the end of the world," Jardonna mumbles as she stares through the window and reflects as if the quake were yesterday.
As the eldest of five, Jardonna never lived anywhere but Haiti. On the day of the earthquake she had just left school and after saying hello to her neighbors on her daily walk home, she soon discovered that the habitual greeting would be her last. Just seconds later, those same people were dead. She describes the scene as something you would see only on television or in a movie.
Not only were the homes of her neighbors destroyed, but the school in which she attended, The Collège Classique Féminin-noted as one of the best schools in Port Au Prince. After three and a half months Jardonna's school reopened in April. This time, under tents scattered between debris and with financially strapped teachers instructing...gratis. Just as all hope was nearly lost, Jardonna received a call from her aunt in Brooklyn telling her that she was "sending for her". In a haste decision, Jardonna left behind her dad, aunt, and younger brother, all with whom she lived in Haiti.
On May 17, 2010 Jardonna Constant flew to the US. Today she lives with extended family near Flatbush Avenue. Brooklyn serves as the most heavily populated Haitian area in New York, but is also home to the Flanbwayan Haitian Literacy project, where Jardonna learned to assimilate into American culture. Named after a tree that flourishes wherever it sets root, Flanbwayan helps to place Haitian immigrants and English Language Learners between ages 14 and 21 in New York Public Schools. In Addition, they also provide English language instruction and a space for immigrants to meet new friends.
At 19 years old, Jardonna considers the disaster a turning point in her life. Immediately following the earthquake her future seemed bleak and plagued by the dust of destructed buildings and stench of dead bodies. Although set back from graduation last spring, Jardonna says, "it's okay." As a senior at one of New York's best public high schools for immigrant students, Manhattan Comprehensive Day and Night School, she plans to graduate this spring with hopes of going to college and becoming a nurse. Despite the challenge of learning a new language, meeting new friends, and moving to a new country, Jardonna affirmatively states that she is most thankful for one thing, her life.